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Compassion in Action


1 Jul 2024

YesCare staff help people in need, anyplace and anytime they find themselves in need

It’s no secret that YesCare employees have a passion for helping people, and that doesn’t stop when they’re off the clock. YesCare behavioral health directors Mike Rich and Dr. Emily Szeliga both found themselves in unusual emergency situations recently. On their own time and out of their area of expertise, these administrative leaders leapt into immediate action.


“The actions of Mike and Emily exemplify the character and compassion of our YesCare leaders, supporting their communities in exceptional ways,” says Anthony Waters, YesCare’s Chief of Behavioral Health and Senior Vice President. “From our front-line doctors and nurses up to our top executives, YesCare prioritizes values, character and exemplary quality of care, in every circumstance.”



COVID in the corps


Mike Rich is a Regional Behavioral Health Director with YesCare. He’s also a behavioral health specialist in the Indiana National Guard, providing badly needed mental health services to servicemembers. He’s attached to a medical unit that includes a physician assistant and other medics, but his role is not, generally, practicing hands-on physical medicine.


On a recent two-week deployment in Indiana, however, that changed.


“We were on our annual training, and we had an individual come in with heart attack symptoms. Every medic and our PA went out of the medical unit to handle that emergency,” Rich says. “This happened during regular ‘sick call’ hours on base, and I was the only officer left on the unit, where there would normally be six or seven. While the rest of the team was out meeting the ambulance, about five or six patients came in, all of them exhibiting COVID symptoms.”


With no other doctors available, Rich started checking in the sick servicemembers. “I was the only one in there, and of course, I'm a behavioral health officer. But I looked at all of them and said, ‘Well, I can do COVID tests. I've administered them before.’ I was on active duty during COVID, so I had been trained in how to do that. I texted one of the individuals assisting the physician assistant to get the go-ahead, and then I just started administering tests and doing intake procedures. We wound up having to send two people out of that group to the hospital.”


Rich’s superiors took notice of his proactive response, and at the end of that deployment awarded him with the Army Achievement Medal, an award for meritorious service. “It wasn’t difficult,” he says modestly, “but it’s not something you usually do in behavioral health. I guess that’s why they wanted to recognize me.”


Rich’s military service is actually an outgrowth of his role at YesCare. He was formerly the director of operations for the State of Tennessee’s behavioral health contract, and a fellow director alerted him to the deep need in the military for health care workers in general, and behavioral health specialists in particular. With no prior military experience, Rich commissioned as a behavioral health officer when he was 46 years old. He is in the process of moving from first lieutenant to captain.



Trouble on the train


Dr. Emily Szeliga is also a Regional Director of Behavioral Health for YesCare, based in Philadelphia. She was taking her 3-year-old daughter to a doctor’s appointment on a recent Saturday when she encountered an individual in obvious medical distress.


“When I stepped onto the L, there was a person lying on the floor – in the middle of the train car, in everybody’s way. The other people on the train were just sort of turning away and pretending it wasn’t happening.”


Even though she was juggling a stroller and a small child, Szeliga jumped into action. “I started asking around, ‘Has this person been here for long? Did anybody see him fall?’ It was obvious to me that he was in some distress – he was unaware that he was lying on the floor of a train. His eyes were partly open and his breathing was really slow. Immediately, it seemed like an emergency to me.”


The emergency button to contact the driver wasn’t working, so Szeliga couldn’t immediately stop the train. Instead, she started asking other passengers to call 911. “I told one person, ‘When we get to the next stop, you need to get off and tell the conductor to stop the train. There’s going to be a dead person on this train if we don’t do something fast.’ ”


When they got to the next station, Szeliga blocked the doors to keep the train from leaving while another passenger ran to alert the driver. “I just kept yelling for Narcan,” she recalls. “I just kept saying, ‘Does anybody have Narcan?


“It’s a bit of a blur now, and I don’t even know who did give me the Narcan – it just appeared in my hand. I administered it, and within seconds he started coming around, grumbling and mumbling. Obviously it had had some effect. Very shortly after that the paramedics arrived.”


With the situation in hand, Szeliga retrieved her daughter, who had been sitting quietly in her stroller the whole time, and went on to their doctor’s appointment. And she’s planning to start carrying Narcan. “There’s obviously a crisis nationwide with opiates, and Philadelphia, in particular, has struggled with the problem, but this was a first for me.”


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About YesCare

YesCare is an industry leader providing comprehensive healthcare and reentry services to incarcerated individuals. For more than 40 years, the YesCare team has provided expert medical, dental, and behavioral health services to more than 1 million patients at 475 correctional facilities across the country. Its mission is to provide exceptional care, put patients’ health and safety first, and break the cycle of recidivism, while helping improve the communities where they live and work.


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