Helping Your Mind’s Health

MCHC hires new behavioral health director.

Life is stressful. Maybe you want to quit smoking or the economy is getting you down. Maybe you’re having a tough time talking to your spouse, or your keiki moved out and left you with an empty nest.

Stephanie Napoli understands, and she wants to help.

Napoli took over as Molokai Community Health Center’s (MCHC) Director of Behavioral Health Services (BHS) July 1, replacing Darryl Salvador. With master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Argosy University in Atlanta, she has lived all over the country practicing at community health centers, including in Honolulu in 2006 as a foster care program supervisor and most recently at Ventura County Behavioral Health in California.

She and her husband, who will captain the Molokai Princess, “have always looked to move back to the islands.” The post at MCHC was a perfect fit, she said.

“It’s a great job because the mission and vision here is just right in line with how I operate,” said Napoli, who will also serve as a full-time psychologist treating patients. “I love the fact that it’s a true community health care center, really run by the community and guided by the community’s needs. That was really important for me.”

In addition easing the stress of everyday life, she wants to help the Molokai community combat pervasive problems like domestic violence, substance abuse, teen alcoholism, suicide, depression and anxiety.

“I would love [for MCHC] to become a comfortable place for people to come to for any kind of life stressor, whether it be a diagnosable mental disorder or whether it be ‘I’m having trouble this week with my kids,’” she said.

To achieve that goal, Napoli has been talking story with community members, learning what they want to see from BHS. She said staff members are “highly aware of the fact that we’re coming into a culture, and we want it to be very Molokai.”

The setup of MCHC is helpful for people weary of seeking treatment because patients go to the same place for all appointments, regardless whether treatment is physical, mental or emotional. Patients don’t need health insurance to be treated, and critical situations are treated same day.

Still, over time she aims to “promote the idea and let people recognize that there is no shame” in treating stress, mental illness or substance abuse.

 “Coming to [BHS] is like coming to any other doctor,” she said. “You take care of your diabetes, you take care of your depression.”

BHS is particularly helpful to patients because it’s “a neutral sounding board,” said Desiree Puhi, MCHC executive director.

“When you’re having stress in your life, you can go to somebody [at Behavioral Health Services] and say, ‘This is it, this is my problem,’ and they can just listen and it’s neutral. They don’t have any agendas or anything going on.”

Napoli said one of the strengths of BHS is its ability to cooperate with other groups and departments, including the MCHC medical staff, the Molokai General Hospital (MGH), and island substance abuse centers and task forces, such as one that aims to prevent suicide. MGH employs psychiatrists (who, unlike psychologists, can prescribe medication) once a month, who work with MCHC to fill patients’ prescriptions. MGH also has an in-patient psychiatric unit, which MCHC does not.

To express your mana`o about what you want to see from BHS, call them at 553-5038 or visit their website (molokaichc.org) or Facebook Page (MCHC Friends).

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