When Andrew Stellpflug speaks about mental illness, substance abuse or cases involving psychotic episodes or severe depression, he comes across with genuine empathy. That’s because Stellpflug has a solid grasp on those topics, but not from personal experience.
Stellpflug’s job is to help victims of mental illness or substance abuse find treatment and recovery.
As the Outreach Specialist for Springbrook Hospital, Stellpflug aims to bridge the gap between those who are at the threshold of losing all hope and linking them with resources to help them get their lives back on track.
Springbrook Hospital treats major mental disorders, severe depression, substance abuse, dual diagnoses, and other psychotic and mood disorders. Stellpflug travels among three counties — Hernando, Pasco and Citrus — spreading the word about in-patient and partial hospitalization programs that Springbrook offers.
Most notable is that Stellpflug is in his early 20s. A 2010 high school graduate, he is trying hard to make a difference.
His biggest challenge, he said, is changing the stigma attached to mental illness.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — have a diagnosable mental disorder. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and as many as 45 percent have two or more disorders.
It is difficult knowing there are people in the community with undiagnosed or untreated illnesses, or caught in the grips of addiction, Stellpflug said. Many people still hesitate before seeking help because of the stigmas. “They are fearful of what others will think or will be denied help,” he said.
Stellpflug is on a mission to change that.
Springbrook Hospital, at 7007 Grove Road, about seven miles west of Brooksville, is the only local state-licensed, private-care hospital specializing in the treatment of mental health and substance abuse. The facility provides in-patient care and partial hospitalization care using an outpatient format.
Dual diagnoses, such as a drug or alcohol addiction along with a psychiatric illness, are common and treatable at Springbrook.
In a dual diagnosis situation, clients with substance struggles also exhibit one of more of the following symptoms, according to Springbrook.
♦ Mood disorders
♦ Bipolar disorder
♦ Panic attacks
♦ Obsessive/compulsive behavior
♦ Post traumatic stress disorder
♦ Depression due to chronic pain
The Eclipse Dual Diagnosis Program is customized to each client with a dual-diagnosis. An individualized program is based on need, and designed to provide long-term solutions and coping skills.
With a large population of retirees and older residents, Springbrook also provides senior care for those who are struggling with depression, prescription drug dependency and other psychiatric disorders. Many never have been diagnosed, Stellpflug said.
In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services reports suicide rates are highest among adults age 60 and older.
Bridges Senior Adult Program focuses on depression, psychotic disturbances, mood disorders, memory loss, grief and loss, aging issues and other issues. Clients have in-patient and out-patient options after assessments are made, and type and duration of treatment is determined.
Springbrook’s programs often are centered on redirecting a person’s focus and helping them become proactive in creating a healthier future.
The partial hospitalization program entails regular meetings in focus groups designed to give clients coping tools to maintain their progress. Stellpflug is proud of the facilities in all three counties that provide transportation to and from the sessions and offer well-care check-ins.
Springbrook Hospital is the only facility in the area that receives people committed under the state’s Baker Act, Stellpflug said, meaning patients who are admitted involuntarily to a treatment facility would be taken to Springbrook and transported later to a facility that meets their specific needs.
Stellpflug maintains communication with clients, both current and past, checking in to ensure they don’t feel like they are going through their journey of recovery alone.
Going through mental health issues and/or trying to control a substance addiction can be the most difficult time in a person’s life. Both are topics that need to be discussed more openly because dialogue can help initiate awareness, tolerance, and acceptance, mental health experts say.
Prescription drugs are becoming the leading drug of choice for addicts across the country. “It’s just tough for people to seek help” Stelelpflug said. “They often have to hit their bottom or get Baker Acted to get the help they need.”
SpringbrookHospital can be reached at (352) 596-4306.