InsideBlue May 2022

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<strong>InsideBlue</strong><br />

MAY <strong>2022</strong><br />

A publication for the employees of the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield family of companies<br />

Leading in<br />

behavioral<br />

health<br />

Whole person,<br />

whole health<br />

page 4<br />

A strong "Foundation"<br />

for behavioral health<br />

page 6<br />

Normalizing our<br />

conversation<br />

page 8

Message from the CEO<br />

You may have seen my vlog in April<br />

about strides that Arkansas Blue Cross<br />

and Blue Shield is taking to address<br />

what I consider to be the biggest<br />

healthcare crisis we are currently<br />

facing: behavioral health.<br />

I use the term behavioral health to<br />

describe both mental health conditions,<br />

such as depression, anxiety, and<br />

trauma, and substance use disorders<br />

caused by overuse of drugs or alcohol.<br />

When we look at the challenges facing<br />

healthcare – access, affordability,<br />

quality, patient experience – behavioral<br />

health is at the center of all these<br />

issues. And its impact is growing.<br />

COVID-19 exposed parts of our<br />

population, our society, and our<br />

healthcare system that were already<br />

vulnerable and amplified them. Most<br />

people who struggled during the<br />

pandemic were struggling before,<br />

and the pandemic has made it worse,<br />

whether it was physical health<br />

conditions, like obesity and chronic<br />

health conditions; unmet social needs;<br />

or health disparities due to geography,<br />

race, or ethnicity.<br />

Curtis Barnett<br />

President and Chief<br />

Executive Officer<br />

2 <strong>InsideBlue</strong> <strong>May</strong>

When we look at the challenges facing<br />

healthcare – access, affordability,<br />

quality, patient experience – behavioral<br />

health is at the center of all these<br />

issues. And its impact is growing.<br />

''<br />

The pandemic has been a contributing But this is not just about bad<br />

factor to people’s behavioral health: healthcare statistics getting worse.<br />

• The average share of U.S.<br />

adults reporting symptoms<br />

of anxiety and depression<br />

was 11% in January 2019. In<br />

January 2021 it was 41%. The<br />

highest rates, by far, were<br />

experienced by young adults<br />

between the ages of 18-24.<br />

• More than half of parents<br />

express concern over their<br />

children’s mental well-being.<br />

• One in three high school<br />

students and half of all female<br />

students report persistent<br />

feelings of sadness or<br />

hopelessness.<br />

• Emergency room visits for<br />

attempted suicide have risen<br />

51% for girls.<br />

If someone is depressed, anxious,<br />

or fighting addiction, it’s difficult for<br />

them to take care of other medical<br />

conditions. Behavioral health plays<br />

a significant role in an individual’s<br />

ability to maintain good physical<br />

health, especially with chronic health<br />

conditions like diabetes, asthma,<br />

heart disease, kidney disease and<br />

lung disease. More than 80% of all<br />

healthcare costs can be traced back to<br />

a chronic health condition.<br />

There’s a very personal side to this<br />

issue. I suspect everyone has been<br />

touched by a behavioral health<br />

condition – either personally or through<br />

a family member or close friend.<br />

Individuals and families are suffering<br />

and it’s impacting all aspects of their<br />

lives.<br />

If we’re going to help people live<br />

healthier lives, the kind of lives they<br />

deserve, and impact the rate in which<br />

healthcare costs are growing, we<br />

must make progress on the behavioral<br />

health front.<br />

That’s why we believe that improving<br />

overall health means addressing<br />

people’s physical, behavioral, and social<br />

needs – a whole person approach.<br />

To help accomplish this, Arkansas<br />

Blue Cross is making significant<br />

community and business investments,<br />

and this issue of <strong>InsideBlue</strong> magazine<br />

highlights our efforts.<br />

I am proud of the direction we are<br />

going, and I hope that after you read<br />

this issue, you will be also.<br />

More than<br />

25%<br />

of U.S. adults experience some<br />

behavioral health disorder, yet<br />

60%<br />

don’t receive care for their<br />

condition in a given year.<br />

The rate is higher for<br />

Millennials, who now make<br />

up our largest generation.<br />

Over<br />

1/3<br />

report having a behavioral<br />

health condition, and<br />

we’re seeing rapid<br />

increases in major<br />

depression and alcohol<br />

and substance use.<br />

The rate of diagnosis of a<br />

behavioral health condition for<br />

communities of color<br />

is about<br />

1/2<br />

the rate in white<br />

communities. This is<br />

due to under-diagnosis<br />

driven principally by<br />

lack of access<br />

and stigma. So,<br />

behavioral health is a<br />

significant health<br />

equity issue<br />

as well.<br />

Suicide is the second<br />

leading cause of death<br />

among people aged<br />

10-34<br />

*Data from<br />

National Allilance<br />

for Mental Illness<br />

<strong>May</strong> <strong>InsideBlue</strong> 3

national averages. Our state also has<br />

some of the highest rates of chronic<br />

disease in the nation.<br />

Whole person, whole health<br />

When we think about being well, we<br />

often think about our physical health.<br />

If we are physically sick, we seek a<br />

doctor’s care for a diagnosis. But it’s<br />

equally important to consider wellness<br />

in terms of mental and emotional wellbeing<br />

– our behavioral health.<br />

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield is<br />

working to provide opportunities for our<br />

members and our communities to access<br />

resources that support their whole health<br />

– physical and behavioral.<br />

Behavioral health and mental health<br />

Behavioral health is an overarching term<br />

to describe the connection between an<br />

individual’s behaviors and the health of<br />

their mind and body. Behavioral health<br />

includes a person’s habits – emotionally,<br />

biologically and behaviorally – that affect<br />

their overall well-being.<br />

Mental health is how people react to<br />

their behaviors and environments that<br />

impact their overall state of being.<br />

Symptoms of mental health issues<br />

include disruptive sleep, eating disorders,<br />

maintaining healthy relationships<br />

and even self-harm. Common mental<br />

disorders include depression and anxiety.<br />

Some mental disorders are more severe,<br />

like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.<br />

When we have good behavioral health, we<br />

may eat healthier, exercise, abstain or limit<br />

alcohol and go to the doctor for checkups.<br />

Conversely, poor behavioral health<br />

conditions such as addiction, anxiety and<br />

depression can limit healthy behavior and,<br />

if ignored, can worsen our health.<br />

Behavioral health in Arkansas<br />

In Arkansas, rates of depression and<br />

anxiety among adults exceed the<br />

Individuals with chronic health conditions<br />

like diabetes, asthma, heart disease and<br />

lung disease are twice as likely to have<br />

a behavioral health disorder. If someone<br />

is depressed, anxious or dealing with<br />

addiction, it is hard for them to effectively<br />

care for their chronic health condition.<br />

The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated<br />

behavioral health issues in Arkansas.<br />

Impacting these statistics and improving<br />

the quality of life for Arkansans motivated<br />

Arkansas Blue Cross to make a significant<br />

investment in behavioral health.<br />

How Arkansas Blue Cross is helping<br />

Arkansas Blue Cross wants to become<br />

the unquestioned leader for Arkansas<br />

behavioral and whole person care. Our<br />

vision? The best care model, member<br />

experience, quality and cost.<br />

David Jacobsen, vice president Medicaid<br />

Business Development Strategy, is<br />

leading Arkansas Blue Cross’ efforts to<br />

help address behavioral health.<br />

"Like physical health ailments, we have<br />

all faced adverse behavioral health<br />

situations either personally or with<br />

family or friends," David said. “As a<br />

health solutions company, we must<br />

make an impact on behavioral health.<br />

To that end, we are executing a strategy<br />

that is designed to intentionally change<br />

lives for the better by impacting every<br />

touchpoint of the behavioral health<br />

journey toward measurable outcomes.”<br />

From January to June 2019, one in ten adults reported<br />

anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms.<br />

That number has increased to three in ten since <strong>May</strong> 2020.<br />

4 <strong>InsideBlue</strong> <strong>May</strong>

Care managers: Arkansas Blue Cross<br />

already has accredited care managers<br />

to help our members navigate the<br />

healthcare system. We also have<br />

behavioral healthcare managers through<br />

New Directions, our behavioral health<br />

solutions partner. We are considering<br />

dedicated Arkansas Blue Cross co-case<br />

managers for behavioral health whole<br />

person care.<br />

Expanded access to telehealth:<br />

Telehealth can help members access<br />

the care they need when they need it<br />

and reduce the stigma of getting help.<br />

Telehealth can be scheduled quickly,<br />

within one or two days, and sometimes<br />

the same day. We added MDLive and<br />

will be adding digital tools on our<br />

website for anxiety, depression and<br />

substance use.<br />

Health education programs:<br />

When faced with a new or ongoing<br />

health condition like diabetes, chronic<br />

asthma, or pregnancy, the information<br />

can be overwhelming. Our education<br />

programs give information to help our<br />

members understand the link between<br />

physical and behavioral health and find<br />

the best care path for them.<br />

Help Near Home, Powered by<br />

Aunt Bertha: Arkansas Blue Cross<br />

partners with a company called Aunt<br />

Bertha. Aunt Bertha helps our social<br />

workers find local resources that help our<br />

members have healthier lifestyles.<br />

Medical coverage: Arkansas Blue<br />

Cross continues to develop robust<br />

medical coverage to help with<br />

behavioral health support. “I’m proud<br />

of the steps our enterprise continues to<br />

Before the pandemic,<br />

the share of Arkansas adults<br />

with any mental illness<br />

was 20.3% in 2018-2019.<br />

The national share was 19.9%.<br />

From April 28 to <strong>May</strong> 10, 2021,<br />

2018-2019 April-<strong>May</strong> 2021<br />

Adults with mental illness<br />

Adults with mental illness<br />

19.9% National Average 30.7% National Average<br />

20.3% Arkansas Average<br />

take," said Bert Price, M.D., our medical<br />

director with a background in psychiatry.<br />

"Members can receive outpatient<br />

psychotherapy, and their practitioners<br />

don’t face complicated paperwork. Also,<br />

covered treatments include medical<br />

interventions for opiate addiction,<br />

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation<br />

(TMS) treatment for depression, and<br />

Brexanelone infusions to treat severe<br />

symptoms of postpartum depression.<br />

Coverage also includes residential and<br />

inpatient care, and we added codes to<br />

*Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation<br />

35.5% of Arkansas adults reported<br />

anxiety and/or depression disorder<br />

symptoms. That’s higher than the<br />

national average of 30.7% of adults.<br />

35.5%<br />

Arkansas Average<br />

encourage collaborative care, like having<br />

a social worker in primary care offices.”<br />

Provider network: Building on our<br />

existing Patient Centered Medical<br />

Homes (PCMH) and Collaborative<br />

Health Initiatives (CHI), we are<br />

identifying behavioral health providers<br />

to produce the best outcomes,<br />

develop reimbursement models that<br />

reward these providers for those good<br />

outcomes and ensure our members and<br />

physical health providers know about<br />

these quality providers.<br />

How physical, behavioral and environmental health factors intersect:<br />

Depression or anxiety can<br />

cause headaches, weight<br />

gain, trouble sleeping,<br />

muscle pain, and long-term<br />

physical health conditions.<br />

Living in an unsanitary<br />

environment can cause<br />

a risk of infections,<br />

allergies or more<br />

serious long-term<br />

health issues.<br />

A lack of nutritious food<br />

(food insecurity) can<br />

impact childhood physical<br />

and mental health<br />

development, and cause<br />

health issues in adults.<br />

<strong>May</strong> <strong>InsideBlue</strong> 5

A strong ‘Foundation’<br />

for behavioral health<br />

In <strong>May</strong> 2021, the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier<br />

Arkansas committed $5.29 million to expand behavioral health<br />

resources across our state – the largest one-time investment<br />

the foundation has ever made. The grants went to six Arkansasbased<br />

organizations that are working to improve access to and<br />

awareness of behavioral health programs. The seven grants<br />

work to address behavioral health needs in children and adults<br />

and train future behavioral health professionals.<br />

“Starting the conversation is the first step to ending the<br />

stigma,” said Rebecca Pittillo, executive director of the Blue<br />

& You Foundation, “and finding a behavioral health provider<br />

when and where you need them isn’t always possible. We’re<br />

supporting these services to improve access to behavioral<br />

healthcare services and with the work we are funding to<br />

destigmatize mental health, it should make it easier for people<br />

to speak up and seek the behavioral healthcare they need.”<br />

Supporting children and their families<br />

In Arkansas, the need for childhood behavioral healthcare<br />

ranks higher than anywhere in the country. Behavioral health<br />

conditions in children, like anxiety, depression, or issues<br />

conditions related to childhood trauma, can lead to significant<br />

health problems if not detected and treated early. Two Blue<br />

& You grants specifically focus on early childhood intervention:<br />

The HealthySteps program through Arkansas<br />

Children’s Hospital places behavioral health specialists<br />

in pediatric clinics in Arkansas to help families better<br />

understand and recognize symptoms of behavioral<br />

health conditions in children and connect them to care.<br />

Spring <strong>2022</strong> Update: Arkansas Children’s has hired<br />

clinical social workers to place in selected clinics<br />

and will begin implementing the program in <strong>May</strong> <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

The Arkansas Trauma Resource Initiative for Schools<br />

(TRIS) through UAMS provides resources and<br />

training to school faculty and staff to recognize signs<br />

of childhood trauma and support children and their<br />

families by connecting them with local behavioral<br />

healthcare resources. The program also offers<br />

behavioral health resources and trauma response<br />

consultations to schools during times of crisis.<br />

Spring <strong>2022</strong> Update: The TRIS program has trained<br />

more than 2,000 school personnel and held 44<br />

training sessions in 23 cities. Since August 2021,<br />

15 post-trauma consultations have been held in<br />

schools across the state.<br />

Integrating social workers into primary care settings<br />

In an effort to address the shortage of behavioral health providers<br />

in the state of Arkansas, the Blue & You Foundation created<br />

endowment funds for Arkansas State University, the University<br />

of Arkansas – Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas<br />

– Little Rock to expand their Master of Social Work programs,<br />

specifically to support students in the Master of Social Work<br />

Program who are pursuing internships in a primary care setting.<br />

Arkansas State University Spring <strong>2022</strong> Update:<br />

Two students met the criteria and worked received<br />

scholarships to be placed in medical clinics in<br />

Northeast Arkansas through the spring semester. They<br />

will graduate in <strong>May</strong> and have opportunities at the<br />

clinics where they worked. They The university hopes<br />

to identify 15 more clinics by the end of <strong>May</strong> to create<br />

more spaces for student to complete internships in<br />

medical clinics. allow more students to intern.<br />

University of Arkansas - Fayetteville Spring <strong>2022</strong><br />

Update: The university has worked over the last<br />

six months to develop the program with the help<br />

of the Arkansas Behavioral Health Integration<br />

Network. The program has identified the need for<br />

more Marshallese and Spanish-speaking clinicians,<br />

and the endowment will focus on supporting<br />

students with this background who express interest<br />

in working in primary care clinics. Although the<br />

scholarships through the endowment are not<br />

exclusive to this demographic, the university hopes<br />

to see workers in this field expand through the<br />

support of this scholarship.<br />

University of Arkansas – Little Rock Spring <strong>2022</strong><br />

Update: Two students completed internships in<br />

primary care clinics and will graduate in <strong>May</strong>. The<br />

university is screening additional students for the<br />

scholarship for the fall semester and working with<br />

the Arkansas Blue Cross provider network team to<br />

find clinics that will partner with the program.<br />

6 <strong>InsideBlue</strong> <strong>May</strong>

Even when people feel that they may be experiencing<br />

symptoms of a behavioral health condition, they often<br />

don't know where to go to get help. By making these<br />

services available, we're making it easier for people<br />

to access the care they need right from their primary<br />

care provider's office.<br />

– Rebecca Pittillo<br />

Executive Director, Blue & You Foundation For A Healthier Arkansas<br />

Normalizing the Conversation<br />

Removing the stigma attached to seeking behavioral<br />

healthcare and improving accessibility is the third goal of the<br />

Blue & You Foundation behavioral health grants. Arkansas<br />

Blue Cross has developed an awareness campaign around<br />

two organizations focused on improving access to behavioral<br />

healthcare. The campaign helps that are working to remove the<br />

stigma associated with behavioral health conditions that may<br />

prevent people from seeking care.<br />

NAMI Arkansas<br />

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Arkansas<br />

chapter is helping to increase awareness and promote<br />

acceptance of behavioral health conditions and promote<br />

seeking care. With Blue & You support, NAMI Arkansas<br />

is helping high school and college students to establish<br />

campus chapters.<br />

Spring <strong>2022</strong> Update: NAMI Arkansas is working to<br />

reach more schools and providing an outreach toolkit<br />

to students that want to set up NAMI on Campus and<br />

NAMI High School Clubs.<br />

AR ConnectNow<br />

AR ConnectNow immediately connects people with UAMS<br />

Psychiatric Institute clinicians through a 24/7 call center at<br />

800-482-9921. Health insurance isn’t required to use UAMS AR<br />

ConnectNow, and you do not need a referral from a physician.<br />

Spring <strong>2022</strong> Update: Seeking a rebrand that better<br />

demonstrates the accessibility and immediacy of<br />

the service, the organization changed its name from<br />

AR-Connect to AR ConnectNow, and is focusing on<br />

an awareness campaign, funded by the Blue & You<br />

Foundation, which will primarily target students,<br />

faculty, and parents throughout the state.<br />

You can find out more about these programs and more at<br />

normalizetheconversation.com.<br />

The foundation investments<br />

focus on programs that:<br />

• Build life-long health, resiliency and wellbeing<br />

for children and families by activating<br />

early intervention practices and addressing<br />

the drivers of behavioral health conditions.<br />

• Expand the behavioral healthcare workforce<br />

and better integrate behavioral health into<br />

primary care, which will improve access.<br />

• Remove barriers to care, like the longstanding<br />

stigma around receiving<br />

behavioral health treatment.<br />

<strong>May</strong> <strong>InsideBlue</strong> 7

Normalizing our conversation<br />

Stress, anxiety, burnout, depression and substance use can be difficult to talk about, but they are more<br />

common than many realize. It’s time to talk about it. It’s time to normalize asking for help and end<br />

emotional health stigma. Several employees offered to share their stories to normalize the conversation.<br />

There's no lion! by Jake Debord // supervisor of Systems Programming for IT Support<br />

In spring 2020, it seemed like I had stress<br />

in all areas of my life, and I felt like I<br />

was becoming unglued. The pandemic<br />

hit, and uncertainty affected everything.<br />

I felt isolated because I’m a social<br />

person and I couldn’t go out or see my<br />

friends as often. My partner Ryan worked<br />

insane hours (including nights) as a<br />

resident physician at Arkansas Children’s<br />

Hospital. Also, I started a massive new<br />

work project called HITRUST. I missed<br />

seeing my colleagues in person – we’re<br />

a bunch of weirdos, and we love each<br />

other for exactly that.<br />

Even good things bring stress. I was<br />

promoted to supervisor in <strong>May</strong>, so I also<br />

was learning how to be a manager and<br />

how to lead remotely.<br />

Now, I’ve been through things in my life,<br />

and I feel like I’m a strong, intelligent<br />

person who can figure out a lot on my<br />

own. But I knew I needed help.<br />

I decided to contact the Employee<br />

Assistance Program (EAP) because I’d<br />

heard that New Directions offered things<br />

like life coaching. And that I also knew it<br />

was confidential, so I figured why not?<br />

I’m a tech person and trained to be<br />

a troubleshooter. If I can understand<br />

what’s wrong with a system, I can seek<br />

solutions. My therapist was tech support<br />

for my brain. She gave me articles to read<br />

and exercises for my brain, the system I<br />

needed help with.<br />

My therapist said, “Unless a lion is<br />

coming at me from the garage, you<br />

are safe!” My brain and body were<br />

interpreting anxiety as life-or-death. I was<br />

in overdrive and really didn’t need to be.<br />

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I<br />

learned a technique called mindfulness<br />

and changed my life. I learned when my<br />

mind was racing I can remind myself<br />

that there’s no lion! I can relax my<br />

jaw, breathe in and out deeply, and<br />

ask myself, “What do you see right<br />

now? What do you hear? What can you<br />

taste?” Focusing on my senses brought<br />

me out of that state of panic, and I could<br />

return with a clearer mind (and lowered<br />

heart rate).<br />

Through therapy, I realized that I was<br />

using alcohol to relax and unplug but<br />

it wasn't getting at the root problem<br />

for me. I decided to stop drinking<br />

alcohol in February 2021, and my mind<br />

has been clearer.<br />

What’s even better is that I’ve applied<br />

what I’ve learned to help work situations,<br />

and I’ve shared the tools with other<br />

employees.<br />

By sharing my story, I hope that people<br />

will know that deciding to get a little<br />

help is actually a sign of strength. I<br />

want to help reduce the stigma. Oh,<br />

and a “data point:” New Directions<br />

doesn’t give reports to Arkansas Blue<br />

Cross with employees’ names! So if<br />

you’re worried about that – if that’s<br />

what’s standing between you and<br />

calling – please don’t let it.<br />

Surviving life's tidal waves<br />

by Jen Bridgeman // manager of Content<br />

and Communications for Corporate Marketing<br />

In the summer of 2014, I had a convergence of life-altering<br />

events that made my mental health spiral. My parents both<br />

exhibited rapid cognitive decline, and it was clear that my<br />

already rocky marriage was failing. I felt like a tidal wave was<br />

looming over me, just waiting to crash down. I found myself<br />

going to my car to cry for several minutes at a time during the<br />

day while trying to put on a brave face to my coworkers.<br />

I had talked with a counselor years before and remembered<br />

how much it helped. I called the employee assistance program<br />

(EAP) and found a counselor just blocks away from my office.<br />

I immediately had a great connection with Melanie, the<br />

counselor. Through EAP, I was able to get six free visits. It was<br />

clear I would need more, but the copay was manageable.<br />

During my conversations with Melanie, we were able to<br />

identify all the stressors wrapped up in that tidal wave and<br />

talk through how each would impact my life. The amazing<br />

thing was that by identifying my biggest fears, they became<br />

less frightening, and I could plan my next steps and move<br />

forward. By the end of that year, I was divorced, broke and<br />

had full guardianship of my parents. But I was happy.<br />

I learned something so valuable in that process. When you<br />

get hit by life’s tidal waves, sometimes all you can do is<br />

hang on. But when the pain and frustration recedes, you<br />

come to a very special moment; you get to decide what you<br />

pick back up. By choosing what I wanted for myself, I was<br />

able to get my parents into assisted living, pay off my debt,<br />

and find a loving, healthy relationship.<br />

If you are struggling with whether to call EAP, the answer is<br />

yes. If you need a friend to talk about it, I’m here. You don’t<br />

have to feel alone.<br />

8 <strong>InsideBlue</strong> <strong>May</strong>

When stress "breaks" your heart<br />

by Jessica Myers // claims specialist III for Blue Advantage National Accounts Adjustments<br />

Last year, I was diagnosed with takotsubo<br />

cardiomyopathy, better known as “broken<br />

heart syndrome.”<br />

The months leading up to a trip to Texas<br />

for my daughter’s regional gymnastics<br />

competition were stressful. In addition to<br />

working full-time, I’d taken on new duties<br />

at church, my daughter’s team practices<br />

three evenings a week, but I had been too<br />

exhausted to be there the last six months.<br />

The day before our trip, my mom fell<br />

at my home and I had to call 911.<br />

Thank goodness she was okay. That<br />

evening, while shopping, I had what<br />

felt like extraordinarily strong muscle<br />

spasms between my shoulder blades.<br />

I pushed myself through the pain and<br />

exhaustion. I got to bed about 1 a.m.<br />

and got up at 5 a.m.<br />

The next day, my husband, daughter and<br />

I headed to Texas and I began to relax.<br />

We went to sleep around 10:30, but at<br />

12:03 a.m., I sat upright in bed flooded<br />

with panic with the urge to jump from<br />

our balcony window.<br />

I called 911 and woke my husband.<br />

When the paramedics took my vitals,<br />

they were normal, but I knew something<br />

wasn’t right. I asked my husband to take<br />

me to the ER. There was some shame<br />

and a feeling of guilt because my<br />

husband didn’t know what to make of<br />

this. I’d never called 911 for a panic<br />

attack and having my daughter see me<br />

like this was unbearable.<br />

Because of COVID restrictions, my<br />

husband and daughter had to leave me<br />

at the ER – and I felt like I was a million<br />

miles away from my home in Benton.<br />

After two EKGs, a heart cath and heart<br />

ultrasound, the doctors determined that<br />

I had takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also<br />

known as “broken heart syndrome.” It’s<br />

pretty rare, but it happens when the heart<br />

muscle becomes suddenly stunned<br />

or weakened. My “ejection fraction” was<br />

a staggering 10-15% of function – heart<br />

transplant status.<br />

I was so scared and alone in that hospital<br />

bed by myself. I was beyond thankful<br />

for the lone ER physician who ran tests<br />

and realized I wasn’t going “crazy.”<br />

Many people who have takotsubo<br />

cardiomyopathy say it began with a panic<br />

attack. Why this is and why I felt like<br />

jumping off that balcony I’ll never know.<br />

I’m not going to sugar coat it – it was<br />

a very tough day. I was able to pull<br />

through because I made my husband and<br />

friends aware I was having a very hard<br />

time. Also, I didn’t want any regrets and<br />

wanted my daughter to have her mother.<br />

I can understand and am sympathetic to<br />

those who couldn’t pull through. I know<br />

how it feels.<br />

After getting help, I was put on<br />

medication and ordered to bed rest.<br />

In two months I improved and was<br />

even able to run half a mile.<br />

No transplant needed.<br />

To this day I still struggle on occasion<br />

with functioning depression and<br />

I just take it a day at a time. I do try and<br />

tell myself that was the lowest I’ve felt,<br />

so I can pull through again and again.<br />

Ready to take the next step?<br />

All of these resources are free and confidential.<br />

New Directions Behavioral Health provides articles, videos, counselors,<br />

career coaches, case managers and more, and also can help with diagnoses such as autism<br />

and substance abuse. Call 877-801-1159 or visit eap.ndbh.com and use code arkbluecross .<br />

UAMS Health AR ConnectNow<br />

psychiatry.uams.edu/clinical-care/arconnectnow<br />

The Arkansas Behavioral Health Call Center<br />

800-482-9921<br />

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline<br />

800 -799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY)<br />

National Veterans Crisis Line<br />

800-273-8255, press 1<br />

JustFive self-guided help for learning about<br />

substance abuse justfive.org/newdirections<br />

Substance Abuse Hotline<br />

877-326-2458<br />

<strong>May</strong> <strong>InsideBlue</strong> 9

<strong>InsideBlue</strong><br />

A publication for the employees of the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield family of companies<br />

EDITOR: Katie Eisenhower DESIGNER: Ryan Kravitz PHOTOGRAPHERS: Chip Bayer and Cindy Momchilov<br />

CONTRIBUTORS: Curtis Barnett, Jennifer Bridgeman and Rebecca Pittillo<br />



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