Mid-Shore Hospice Care: The Special Needs of Vets with Deborah Grassman

It’s hard to think of anyone more qualified to talk about the needs of war veterans as they enter their final stages of life than Deborah Grassman. A nurse practitioner by training, Deborah has had a remarkable record of working at the Veterans Administration specifically focused on hospice care for 30 years, and has directly participated in the final days of over 10,000 veterans.

Those experiences led Grassman to start her own organization, Opus Peace, to educate family members and hospice volunteers to be more aware of the very different emotions many aging vets have at the end of their lives when wartime memories involuntarily surface after years, sometimes decades, of suppression.

That was the primary reason Talbot Hospice invited Deborah to the Mid-Shore so she could share those stories and what she learned a few weeks ago. The Spy sat down with her before her evening lecture to talk about the extraordinary coming to terms to take place with many veterans as a come to the close of their lives and what families can do to help facilitate an honorable and peaceful death.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Talbot Hospice please go here

Hearthtstone Health and Fitness Equals Game Changer

Sometimes it takes an outsider with an open mind and an unwavering vision to re-define an industry. Dave Tuthill’s former health issues of type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease and weight gain led him to seek help from his physician and a hormone specialist. His subsequent wellness program of fitness and nutrition enabled him to drop 150 pounds and 15 medications. Grateful for his newfound health, he was determined to “pay it forward” and established Hearthstone in 2012.

The business philosophy of Dave and his wife Martha is simple but effective-focus on member individual wellness, fitness and nutritional needs and hire trainers and other staff with degrees in exercise sciences and national training certifications who incorporate each member’s unique fitness goals into a personalized fitness plan. Training packages begin with a one-hour fitness capability and health assessment. Staff inquire about past injuries and current medications to understand each individual’s unique needs. Plans are offered with discounts for seniors, active military and police personnel. This approach works-current memberships are 700 with a retention rate of 80-85%.

Another unique aspect of Hearthstone’s mission is its outreach to the medical community. Free memberships are offered to area medical professionals who in turn make presentations on their specialties to club members. Hearthstone’s outreach extends beyond its doors by its involvement in many local organizations and charities. So far, Hearthstone has provided support to over 60 local schools and civic organizations.

Having achieved all this, most business owners would rest on their laurels and be content with business as usual, but not Dave and Martha Tuthill. Next month, they will leave their current leased 5,000 sf space and make a quantum leap into their own facility of 17,000 sf under construction on Commerce Drive.

The new facility will offer members amenities such as a business center, a child care facility, open at 6:00am, locker rooms with steam rooms and a massage room, a beverage bar offering smoothies and other nutritional drinks and food-to-go from a local caterer. Fitness offerings include separate areas for cardio, free weights and circuit training, a “turf” area for functional training, a 1,000 sf group exercise room and a storage room for spin bikes. The most unique new offering is a golf simulator where a member can perfect his/her swing until they are ready for prime time on the links. The golf suite has its own outside entrance, so it could be used for private parties as well. After all that exercise, relax in the steam room, shower and dry off with luxurious towels and book a massage.

For more information, call 410- 690-3838.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

The David Hill Family Honored at Channel Marker’s 35th Anniversary Party

During Channel Marker’s 35 anniversary party held at the Easton Waterfowl Armory on March 3 , Executive Director Debbye Jackson, on behalf of the board and staff honored the family of Dr. David Hill for its exceptional family support of their son and brother who is a long time client and lives in a Channel Marker residence.

A large contingent of the Hill family were present to view a video that told the story of their love for Will.  “Not only does this family wholeheartedly support Will but they offer tremendous support of Channel Marker’s services to many adults and children in the Mid-Shore.”

Grants in Action: For All Seasons and Women & Girls Fund Comfort Victims of Sexual Assault

It seems like a simple enough project. Upon notification that there is a victim of sexual assault in one of the Mid-Shore’s hospitals, For All Seasons, Inc, the region’s outpatient mental health services agency, quickly provides a “comfort kit” to the victim with clothes, shoes and other personal items to replace those that will be used as state’s evidence against the offender.

And yet, this essential outreach program, which may take place up to 16 times a month throughout the For All Seasons service region, has been one of the more difficult initiatives for staff to fundraise for given the nature of the work and its relatively modest budget demands.

That is when the Women & Girls Fund stepped in.

As WGF board member Judi Loscomb noted in her interview with the Spy a few weeks ago, the philanthropic foundation’s ability to pool resources to address these unique community needs is just one of the reasons the Women & Girls Fund has been so successful with its mission and serving the region.

The Spy also talked to For All Seasons executive director, Beth Anne Langrell and the organization’s new director of development, Monika Mraz, to understand more fully how critical the “comfort kit” program is for victims, their families, and for the Mid-Shore in general.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about For All  Seasons please go here.

 This is the fifth in a series of stories focused on the work of the Women & Girls Fund of the Mid-Shore. Since 2002, the Fund has channeled its pooled resources to organizations that serve the needs and quality of life for women and girls in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. The Spy, in partnership with the Women & Girls Fund, are working collaboratively to put the spotlight on twelve of these remarkable agencies to promote their success and inspire other women and men to support the Fund’s critical role in the future.

The Art of Becoming One: Qlarant’s Ron Forsythe on Corporate Consolidation

Unbeknownst to many on the Mid-Shore, there will be a remarkable corporate transition taking place this week. Within a rather undistinguished office building located next to Target and Harris Teeter on Marlboro Street, a consolidation of three major businesses into one will officially commence with the potential to fundamentally change the Eastern Shore’s corporate profile for years to come.

We are talking about Quality Health Strategies, with its national reputation for its Health Integrity wing for reducing medical fraud, merging with its siblings, the Delmarva Foundation, with leadership and consulting services to make healthcare effective and safe, and their philanthropic arm, the Quality Healthcare Foundation, a significant contributor to Eastern Shore health needs, into one national corporation named Qlarant with over 400 employees.

The art of merging three highly successful organizations into one is a difficult task for any leader, but, as we learn from our recent Spy interview with Ron Forsythe, the former CEO of QHS, and now CEO of Qlarant, the opportunity from this kind of merger far outweighed the disadvantages as Ron and his board came to realize that their collective tools for health management and accountability could be applied to a host of other fields, from higher education to banking.

Born on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, raised in Salisbury, armed with a doctorate in chemical engineering, and a history of success at UMES before joining QHS four years ago, Ron seemed like the ideal person to oversee this delicate project and sparked our interest in interviewing him about this major milestone.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the new Qlarant please go here 


Talbot Hospice Offers Memoir Workshop

Talbot Hospice is offering a six-week memoir workshop – Looking Back with Gentle Eyes – facilitated by Anne McCormick, M.Ed., Tuesday mornings 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m., March 20 – April 24, 2018. The class is free of charge and open to the public. Class size is limited to ten participants. Advance registration is required and can be made by calling 410-822-6681.

McCormick is the retired Associate Director of the Learning and Counseling Center and adjunct professor of English at American University, Washington, D.C. She is the co-author of two books and numerous journal articles about accommodating college students with disabilities. Since retiring to the Eastern Shore, Anne has co-offered numerous workshops in memoir writing and served on multiple advocacy boards for individuals with disabilities.

Bringing Fun to Mental Health: Eddie Bishop, Hot Tub Limo, and Channel Marker Come Together

While it is sometimes hard to connect fun and good times with the challenges that come with mental illness, or the organizations that support those afflicted with brain disease, it may, in fact, be an essential bridge for better mental health for everyone.

Study after scientific study is showing documentation that the feeling of joy is an essential part of a human’s defense system against numerous conditions that wreak havoc on thinking and behavior.

So it should come as no surprise then to hear that Channel Marker, the region’s primary nonprofit organization providing essential support services to those in our community with severe and persistent mental illness, was using fun as part of their theme for their major fundraising event of the year.

And with that goal in mind, the organization could not find a better person to chair this venture than Easton native Eddie Bishop. A commercial airline pilot by day; devoted fan of local music scene when back home, Ed loved the idea of organizing a party with that theme in mind.

Eddie also knew the perfect band to headline the event. With a early exposure to the Hot Tub Limo band out of Kent Island, he felt there was a perfect match.

The Spy sat down with Eddie and Channel Marker executive director Debbye Jackson for a short chat about this decidedly “fun” event.

This video is approximately minutes in length. For ticket information please go here



Bayleigh Chase: The Future of Memory Loss on the Delmarva with Dr. Terry Detrich

Showing his strong native roots on the Mid-Shore, the first thing Dr. Terry Detrich notes about the establishment of the Samuel and Alexia Bratton Neurocognitive Clinic at Bayleigh Chase in Easton was his long-festering grievance that the center’s location had replaced his favorite goose hunting spot. Growing up as a boy in Easton, he and his friends had used the farmland west of Route 50 for that purpose before leaving the Shore to attend college and medical school to become a neurologist.

Dr. Detrich returned to Talbot County after that intensive training to become the Delmarva’s first general neurologist and since the 1960s has been watching his field go from “diagnosis and adios” to stunning new breakthroughs in eldercare treatment for cognition disorders.

And while there have been peaks and valleys in the understanding of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease since the doctor started his practice forty plus years ago, he noted in his recent Spy interview that he has never been more encouraged than over the last two years as he and his colleagues began to see an evolution in how patients are treated with better results and more precise tools for prevention.

That was one of the reasons that led Dr. Detrich to join the staff of the Bratton Clinic this year and the Spy caught up with him on first day on the job late last year to talk about this new phase of Neurocognitive work and his renewed faith that real progress is being made.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Samuel and Alexia Bratton Neurocognitive Clinic at Bayleigh Chase please go here

I Didn’t Know about Mental Illness until I Did By Liz Freedlander

For most of my life, like many of my friends and family, I knew hardly anything about mental illness until I started a consulting relationship for a few hours a month with Channel Marker. This piece about my experience has been writing itself in my head for a while.

I have had my heart broken open by the people who Channel Marker serves. I now know about persons diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness and their families. Please read these words again: SEVERE and PERSISTENT. You can often tell by looking that people living with mental illness do not fit our definition of normal. We want to look away. I don’t look away any more because I now know about mental illness.

The chemistry of the brain of mentally ill persons usually has been changed. In some cases, by exposure to terrible things as a child that have resulted in PTSD. All this time, I thought PTSD was relegated to war experiences. Channel Marker does serve war veterans. (One Vietnam vet still hears the screams of men and the sounds of gun-fire). It also serves children and youth diagnosed with PTSD.

Many of these ill persons suffer from schizophrenia, often occurring out of the blue while in their twenties. They hear voices or have visual hallucinations – often – sometimes constantly.

During a conversation at the Channel Marker Holiday Party, one of these young men and I were having a pleasant conversation when he apologized for wearing his sunglasses. He said, “They help me with the voices.” This was once a young boy, like any young boy, who grew up riding bikes with pals in his neighborhood and enjoying family vacations. Now, he can look a little scary.

For some reason the tattoos, including the one in the middle of his forehead, give him meaning in his difficult life. He is polite and sweet and has a sense of humor. He religiously takes his meds although the side effects make him feel debilitated. They help him cope.

I have met parents. The heartache never goes away. One mother said, “The stigma of mental illness makes me feel as if my son spends each day out in the middle of a field where he is pecked to death.” One father’s sadness was palpable as he explained that his son does not take his meds so his symptoms, out of control, make it very difficult to have a relationship.  Still this father  faithfully makes an effort. You can see the pain in this man’s eyes as he describes the vibrant young man with a blossoming career who was once his son.

Lisa is a grown woman whose children live with other families. She has pretty red hair like I once did. She has PTSD with symptoms of chronic depression and anxiety disorders. She told me her life story. I cried. Her childhood with a cruel, narcissistic mother portended poor choices of men in her life. The ultimate result was fleeing for her own survival from a marriage so abusive that she had to leave her children behind with their father. She mourns the loss of her kids. I leave it to your imagination as to what might be part of her story – when she wears a skirt, she always wears pants under it. Her anxiety causes her to be unable to work in an environment where she might be alone with a man.

But this is not the totality of my experience. I have experienced hope and help delivered in the most compassionate and professional manner by Channel Marker. While mental illness may not be curable; it is treatable. The caring staff see beyond the illness into the hearts and personhood of their clients. They provide emotional support, life-skills, goal setting, job-training and placement, triage for health problems, places to live, a peer group and just plain normal laughter. There are success stories.

Only the brave and the optimistic can do this work every day. I think they are heroes. Marty Cassell, a therapist who has worked at Channel Marker for 25 years and a married father of four boys, is tall and attractive but rarely smiles. I asked him one day if the work is heavy. He said, “I love my work because I can see positive changes in my clients. Do you know that in addition to my day job here at Channel Marker, I work evenings for Mid-shore Council on Family Violence to provide one-to-one counseling for battered women. I also have a support group for men who are batterers.” He answered my question.

There are victories to be celebrated because of Marty and his colleagues at Channel Marker. Lisa who lost her children is strong and clear about her past and her future. Her goal is to have a job in an agricultural setting and be an advocate for sustainable farming. She has poured her maternal love into her cats and has a fiancé. She is a student at Chesapeake College and was recently invited to take an honors course. She, like many others, credit their successes to Channel Marker.

Channel Marker annually serves about 400 individuals almost 50% of whom are ages 21 and younger, in Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.

Liz Freedlander has been a resident of Talbot County for 41 years. She was executive director of Talbot Hospice from 1990 to 2004 and recently retired as director of development from the Horn Point Laboratory after 10 years. She has been a fundraising consultant to a number of local nonprofits. Liz has been raising money for nonprofits since the age of 9 when she canvassed her neighborhood with a tin can and collected $5.94 for the Baltimore Symphony.


Mid-Shore Health: Aspen Institute Cancels Rehab Center Contract

The Star-Democrat reported today that a contract for a rehabilitation facility proposed by Recovery Centers of America at the Aspen Institute’s Wye Mills site has been terminated effective Dec. 21. The house is part of Aspen’s Wye River Conference Center in Queen Anne’s County.

The full story can be read here (Reader charges may apply)