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Karlene Ponti: New mental health service opens in Walla Walla Valley

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin - 1/29/2019

Jan. 28--Walla Walla in 2017 ranked highest in the state for suicide, said board-certified adult and child and family psychiatric nurse practitioner Susan Pascual.

"Suicide is a late-stage mental health issue," she said.

Pascual has opened her new practice, Transitions Behavioral Services, 1637 Isaacs Ave. Suite C, to offer mental health services in the area.

The focus is to offer help earlier, much earlier.

"I wanted to offer my services and be more visible," Pascual said. She also wants to be accessible to as many as possible so she accepts Medicaid and many insurances. She wants to offer more options to children and families in the valley.

Her husband is from the Walla Walla area so after living in many different cities, they came back here in about 1996.

She graduated from nursing school at Walla Walla Community College, then went to Gonzaga.

"Kids now are getting into drugs," she said. "Sometimes therapists give them medications rather than learning to deal with maladaptive coping mechanisms. Support them. Meds are a tool to get on track, they're not for everyone."

Her focus is to get people functional and symptom free and offer them support.

Pascual connects with other professionals, such as primary care physicians, veterans services and those in local schools.

She has working partnerships with other therapists in the area, all to benefit her clients. "There's a lot of PTSD," she said.

"Learning to survive in the midst of loss and shock, surviving despite loss and shock. There are a lot of different aspects to it."

"I will walk with you and empower you," she said. "Get people in to clarify where they are, explore their options and get help."

Her clients so far have been school age to about 70. Each situation is an individual case by case conversation but mental and emotional health or illness affects the whole family and the community.

She loves seeing the little changes that develop into the larger changes helping a person get right with themselves. It's a focus of hers to not let the situation get so far along that the person doesn't see a way out of their troubles.

"Suicide is a terrible place," she said. "You can step away from that place. I've worked with active duty personnel and I've told them 'Turn around.' And do that physically (as an illustration.) I've worked with veterans, police; people just don't have to get to that level.

"I'm a strong patient advocate," she said. "I could start to run some groups but right now it's a one-on-one session."

She strives to help clients let go of blockages keeping them stuck in the same places and facilitate positive change.

"Those places where you continually fall down, I help support their vision," she said. "After a tragedy you just don't dream anymore. I hear them often say, 'I feel better now, it's time to dream again.' Try something to help them reestablish their foundation.

"This helps people heal from within. People don't make great choices when they're in crisis. As they heal, then they can do more. I often hear them say 'why did I wait so long?' Once they have a consultation, then the work begins."

Karlene Ponti can be reached at karleneponti@wwub.com or 509-526-8324.

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