The Future of Healthcare: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens in Centreville

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The leading edge of a quiet revolution in healthcare reached the Eastern Shore on Valentine’s Day. That’s when Ash + Ember, a licensed medical marijuana dispensary, opened its doors. The owners of the facility—sisters Ashley and Paige Colen—say they are seeing lots of early demand. The dispensary is located at 202 Coursevall Drive #108 in Centreville.  Visit their website here. 

Maryland is now one of 29 states (plus Washington DC) that provide legal access to hemp and marijuana derivatives to treat medical problems such as pain, nausea, depression, sleeping disorders, epilepsy, and other health issues. The medical marijuana movement, however, is increasingly global. Australia, Argentina, Canada, Germany, Israel and many other countries already provide similar access. The process in Maryland requires prospective patients to get a doctor’s recommendation, then register with state authorities and receive a specialized ID card, and then to work with a licensed dispensary to identify the particular formulation and mode of delivery that best meets their needs.

Ash + Ember offers to help would-be patients with the registration process and with finding a doctor who will recommend medical marijuana therapy, as well as with finding a formulation that best suits each patient. Since the dispensary is limited to suppliers in Maryland (federal regulations make it illegal to ship marijuana across state lines), it’s stock is fairly limited at present, but the local grower and processor industry is scaling up fast and the Colen sisters expect a much wider selection in coming weeks and months. For now, they accept cash only but expect to accept credit cards in the near future and to offer home delivery of their products.They can also be reached at 443-262-8045 and are open 10am-7pm weekdays and 10am-6pm weekends.

One of the barriers to full realization of the medical and health benefits of cannabinoids—the generic term for the active ingredients in hemp and marijuana plants—is widespread ignorance about them among both patients and doctors. Many people associate marijuana with the underground growing and smoking of “weed” to get high—a practice still illegal in most states. An informal survey suggests that many doctors in private practice on the eastern shore still won’t have anything to do with medical marijuana.

But medical cannabinoids don’t have much to do with getting high. Medical scientists have now identified as many as 80 different cannabinoids, most of which produce no buzz or high at all. Indeed of the 8 cannabinoids commonly found in the now bewildering array of commercial medical marijuana products, only one—THC—interacts with receptors in the brain to produce that kind of psychotropic effect. The other most common form—CBD, the mainstay of most medical/therapeutic uses—has no psychotropic effect at all and acts on receptors that are part of the body’s own cannabinoid system. That system, found in nearly all cells, produces cannabinoids to help stabilize the body’s internal processes.

Moreover, smoking marijuana is probably the least common form of administration. Instead, the active ingredients are extracted from the plant by solvents and used as oils (directly on the skin, or ingested in capsules or food, or vaporized and inhaled) or alcohol-based tinctures (delivered as drops under the tongue). Extraction allows manufacturers both to concentrate the active ingredients and also to more precisely control concentrations and purity. And the variety of ways of using medical marijuana gives patients more control as well. Inhaling a vapor has an almost immediate effect, but may be too strong for some circumstances or not a comfortable mode of use for some. Ingesting the drug means a much slower but longer-lasting effect (for controlling pain at work, for example). Putting a drop or two under your tongue also gives immediate effect, but the concentrations in tinctures are typically lower.

Clinical research on specific cannabinoids and their impact on health conditions is still in the early stages—in large part because the federal government had made it very difficult to get permission to do such research. But last year a randomized clinical trial found that high-CBD extracts helped markedly to control epileptic seizures in children. Another study in a mouse model of autism showed that CBD has promise as a treatment there as well. Canadian studies have provided evidence that cannabinoids can help with post-traumatic stress disorder, chemotherapy-induced nausea, sleeping disorders, and arthritic pain. More research is coming.

Arguably one of the most important potential impacts of medical marijuana is likely to be easing the opioid epidemic, the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. If pain can be treated with non-addictive cannabinoids, why use opiods—and enrich the pharma companies that make them—in the first place? Indeed, research studies have reported fewer opioid deaths and reduced opioid use in states where medical marijuana is available. That in itself would be a major benefit of widespread adoption of medical cannabinoids. And if cannabinoids can be used to help wean people already addicted from opioids, as some research suggests, even better.

Of course, medical marijuana is not the only revolution going on—more and more states are legalizing recreational marijuana as well, and the dominant brands for recreational use usually include quite a bit of THC. One genuine concern about recreational marijuana is its potential impact on adolescents: cannabinoids—especially THC—can have a significant impact on the development of adolescent brains. But the more tightly controlled distribution channels for medical marijuana seem far less likely to “leak” into adolescent culture, as well as focusing more heavily on CBD.

Another concern is work-related drug tests: will medical marijuana use show up on these tests and cause someone to lose a job? As it turns out, the tests that follow a federal standard are specific to THC, so using a low-THC/high CBD formulation to control pain should not trigger a positive test.

Another barrier to use is simply social: we’re not yet to the stage where people talk openly about their medical marijuana use. But if you have medical concerns that are not well met by conventional medicines, or want to avoid opioid use or anti-depressants with bad side effects, you might want to look into what’s available—and legal—in medical marijuana, now conveniently at hand on the eastern shore.

Compass Regional Hospice Patient Volunteer Training Scheduled for May

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In May Compass Regional Hospice will offer a training session for individuals interested in becoming a patient care volunteer. This session will be held on Tuesday, May 1 through Thursday, May 3 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown, 905 Gateway Drive in Chestertown. Attending all three days of this session is required for volunteers who wish to provide companionship and support to our patients and their loved ones in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties.

“Volunteers are a vital part of the care we provide,” says Courtney Williams, Manager of Volunteer and Professional Services for Compass Regional Hospice. “It is all about helping others and being there when they need you; whether that is in our hospice centers in Centreville, Denton and Chestertown, or wherever a patient calls home.”

Photo: From L-R,  front row, seated Coletta Miller, Denton; Anita Morris, Centreville; Connie Zaruba, Centreville; middle row, standing Debbie Dant, Denton; Sandy Hartmann, Chestertown; Darby Cissell, Centreville; Mary Maier, Centreville; back row, standing Myrle Yoash, Queen Anne; Nedra Spry, Worton; CiCi Terry, Centreville and Jessie Gibson, Centreville.

Topics include an overview of hospice; the process of dying; spiritual care and its place in hospice care; the stages of grief; effective communications techniques; family dynamics; stress management; and self-care for caregivers.

Compass Regional Hospice relies on more than 300 volunteers of all ages to support its mission of “Care on your terms.” These individuals volunteer their time in a variety of ways. Whatever your motivation to volunteer, there is a place for you at Compass Regional Hospice.

For more information about becoming a volunteer for Compass Regional Hospice, contact Courtney Williams, 443-262-4112, cwilliams@compassregionalhospice.org or visit www.compassregionalhospice.org/volunteers to download the patient care volunteer training registration form.

Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms

Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the State of Maryland, and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville, Chestertown and Denton. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one through The Hope & Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.

Free Seminars Offered in April for Cancer Patients, Caregivers

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The Cancer Program at UM Shore Regional Health has announced free informational and support programs scheduled this month to help patients and their families navigate cancer care and recovery. “Our goal is to help patients understand and manage their care for optimal recovery, and to assist them and their family members in meeting the medical, financial and lifestyle challenges that cancer can bring,” says Patty Plaskon, social work coordinator at the Cancer Center.

A new support group designed for caregivers, “Cancer Caregivers’ Coffee” will meet for the first time on Saturday, April 14, 9-10:30 a.m. at the Cancer Center and will include discussion of varied issues and challenges facing individuals and families assisting patients with cancer.

“Everything You Need to Know About Lymphedema” is the subject of a presentation by Jennifer Pierson, certified lymphedema therapist with UM Shore Regional Health’s Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services, set for Tuesday, April 17 at 4 p.m., at the Cancer Center.

On Friday, April 20, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., the Clark Comprehensive Breast Center will host a Prosthesis Clinic for Breast Cancer Patients. An advance appointment for this clinic is required; call 410-822-1000, ext. 7156 for details.

Dental hygienist Amanda Ward will provide an overview of “Oral Care During and After Cancer Treatment,” on Wednesday, April 25 at 3 p.m. at the Cancer Center.

According to Plaskon, additional programs will be offered in the coming months on a variety of topics related to cancer treatment and recovery. To RSVP for these events or receive information about upcoming programs on cancer topics and UM SRH cancer support groups, call 410-820-6800, ext. 5361.

As part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the principal provider of comprehensive health care services for more than 170,000 residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UM Shore Regional Health’s team of more than 2,500 employees, medical staff, board members and volunteers works with various community partners to fulfill the organization’s mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together.

Recovery: Upcoming Addictions Training at Hope Fellowship

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The opioid epidemic has left healthcare providers and community outreaches looking for new ways to engage people in treatment. Often addicts are also struggling with mental health and social challenges. Special populations that have low literacy abilities or difficulty expressing themselves may slip through the cracks of standard treatment.

Seeking creative solutions, counselor Melissa Stuebing developed the “Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” curriculum under the editorial oversight of Dr. Lauren Littlefield. It was made for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, as well as for illiterate participants and those with self-expression difficulties.

It integrates cognitive behavioral techniques and different expressive arts modalities as means of working through the 12 Steps of addiction recovery. It has since been the subject of 4 clinical studies which found it to promote engagement in treatment. Participants had much higher completion/ retention rates, lower drop-out rates and enrollment in follow up services than non-participants.

“The A. F. Whitsitt Center started incorporating the “Literacy Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” curriculum into our regular activities schedule several years ago. We consistently get good feedback from the patients and the trainers enjoy leading the sessions.” says Andrew Pons, CAC-AD, clinical director. A.F. Whitsitt Center is an inpatient rehabilitation facility that specializes in treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

“The curriculum is beneficial because it teaches those with all the different types of learning styles. I always receive great feedback from participants. They appreciate the change of pace from the lecture format and enjoy being able to express themselves using the different types of media”, remarks counselor Julia Garris.

It is also being used at Kent County Crisis Beds. “Many patients are anxiety ridden and typical verbal skills is a challenge. Melissa’s curriculum allows patients to share their feelings and stabilize in a more natural and comfortable manner.” says Alice Barkley, LCSW-C, crisis beds manager.

There will be 2 upcoming trainings in “Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” on May 8th and September 20th held by Melissa Davis Stuebing, MA, CAC-AD at Hope Fellowship 892 Washington Ave in Chestertown, MD. This program has
been endorsed by the MD Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists for 6 CEUs.

Register at www.CoLaborersInternational.com/ExpressiveArts

Recovery: Upcoming Addictions Training at Hope Fellowship

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The opioid epidemic has left healthcare providers and community outreaches looking for new ways to engage people in treatment. Often addicts are also struggling with mental health and social challenges. Special populations that have low literacy abilities or difficulty expressing themselves may slip through the cracks of standard treatment.

Seeking creative solutions, counselor Melissa Stuebing developed the “Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” curriculum under the editorial oversight of Dr. Lauren Littlefield. It was made for people with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, as well as for illiterate participants and those with self-expression difficulties.

It integrates cognitive behavioral techniques and different expressive arts modalities as means of working through the 12 Steps of addiction recovery. It has since been the subject of 4 clinical studies which found it to promote engagement in treatment. Participants had much higher completion/ retention rates, lower drop-out rates and enrollment in follow up services than non-participants.

“The A. F. Whitsitt Center started incorporating the “Literacy Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” curriculum into our regular activities schedule several years ago. We consistently get good feedback from the patients and the trainers enjoy leading the sessions.” says Andrew Pons, CAC-AD, clinical director. A.F. Whitsitt Center is an inpatient rehabilitation facility that specializes in treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

“The curriculum is beneficial because it teaches those with all the different types of learning styles. I always receive great feedback from participants. They appreciate the change of pace from the lecture format and enjoy being able to express themselves using the different types of media”, remarks counselor Julia Garris.

It is also being used at Kent County Crisis Beds. “Many patients are anxiety ridden and typical verbal skills is a challenge. Melissa’s curriculum allows patients to share their feelings and stabilize in a more natural and comfortable manner.” says Alice Barkley, LCSW-C, crisis beds manager.

There will be 2 upcoming trainings in “Literacy-Free 12 Step Expressive Arts Therapy” on May 8th and September 20th held by Melissa Davis Stuebing, MA, CAC-AD at Hope Fellowship 892 Washington Ave in Chestertown, MD. This program has
been endorsed by the MD Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists for 6 CEUs.

Register at CoLaborersInternational.com/ExpressiveArts

Chester River Health Foundation Donates Funds to Compass Regional Hospice

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Chester River Health Foundation has donated funds exceeding $234,000 — received in past years to support hospice care for Kent County and Queen Anne’s County residents — to Compass Regional Hospice. Chester River Health Foundation had raised funds for hospice care when it was provided by Chester River Home Care & Hospice. Since 2014, Compass Regional Hospice has provided hospice care for Kent County residents in private homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and recently opened its new residential Hospice Center on the third floor of UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.

The official check presentation took place at UM Shore Medical Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Representing the board of the Chester River Health Foundation (CRHF), Barrie Frazier-Meima, stated, “Those of us on the Foundation board and many individuals in the community who have been involved with hospice over the years are so pleased that Compass Regional Hospice is now providing hospice care in our hospital. This arrangement represents a perfect coming together for the benefit of Kent and northern Queen Anne’s county residents, and today, the Board of the Chester River Health Foundation is pleased to provide to Compass Regional Hospice $234,146.34 in funds originally donated to support local hospice care. People in our communities have needed and wanted a residential Hospice Center in our county, and now here it is.”

Shown L-R are Maryann Ruehrmund, executive director, Chester River Health Foundation; Barrie Frazier-Meima, Board chair, Chester River Health Foundation; Heather Guerieri, executive direction, Compass Regional Hospice; Tom Helfenbein, Board chair, Compass Regional Hospice; and Ken Kozel, president and CEO, UM SRH.

According to Heather Guerieri, executive director, Compass Regional Hospice, the funds will be used to pay room and board at the Hospice Center in Chestertown for patients who are unable to afford it, and to help offset other unfunded hospice care and grief support services provided to the residents of Kent County.

“For many years Chester River Health Foundation has played a significant role in ensuring that the residents of Kent and northern Queen Anne’s counties have access to quality medical care,” said Guerieri. “On behalf of the board and staff of Compass Regional Hospice, I would like to thank the Foundation for helping us respond to the end-of-life needs of Kent County hospice patients and their loved ones through the release of Foundation funds earmarked for hospice.”

Other guests included members of the community who were involved with hospice care over the years, including longtime KHF Board members Judie Willock and Mary Wick, who also served as Board president of the organization.

“I’m delighted that hospice care is once again a viable and important resource in Kent County and that Shore Regional Health teamed up with Compass Regional Hospice to house the residential Hospice Center right here in our hospital,” said Wick. “For many years, the Kent Hospice Foundation – our Board, our medical director Dr. Patrick Shanahan and our administrators, including Nancy Morris who was exceptionally dedicated and very effective – provided hospice care with a small group of volunteers and of course, our hospice nurses who worked for Kent County Hospice under the leadership of Dr. John Grant and later for Chester River Home Care & Hospice. An important focus of our fundraising efforts was to support staff education as well as patient care. The field of hospice care was always rapidly evolving and we wanted our team to have the latest knowledge and skills to provide the best care.”

For information about how to support hospice care and grief support in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, contact KendaLeager, development officer for Compass Regional Hospice, 443-262-4106, kleager@compassregionalhospice.org.

For information about how to support patient care and staff development needs at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown, contact Maryann Ruehrmund, executive director, UM Chester River Health Foundation, 410-810-5660, mruehrmund@umm.edu

About UM Shore Regional Health: As part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the principal provider of comprehensive health care services for more than 170,000 residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UM Shore Regional Health’s team of more than 2,600 employees, medical staff, board members and volunteers work with various community partners to fulfill the organization’s mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together.

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

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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

Local Artwork Finds Home at Hospice Center

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Marcy Dunn Ramsey

Artwork created by local artists found a home at the newly renovated Hospice Center, located on the third floor of the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown. Compass Regional Hospice renovated the unit transforming it into a comfortable, home‐like environment that can accommodate four patients in private rooms. Currently on display are stunning oil paintings composed by well-known Kent County artists, Bonnie Howell and Marcy Dunn Ramsey.

“It was important for us to fill the Hospice Center with original art representative of the community we serve,” says Courtney Williams, manager of volunteer and professional services of Compass Regional Hospice. “These pieces reflect the beauty of life and the natural surrounds that our patients know as home. We hope that the art becomes synonymous with the experience here.”

Howell’s artwork captures her passion for people and the Creator of life; often conveying an image of love, beauty, and respect for life and the dignity of an individual. “I hope my paintings can add a bit of beauty and peace to visitors during this time in their life.”

Ramsey’s artwork explores the relationship between the natural world and the human psyche. “Inspiration for my artwork comes from a place of personal response — they are metaphors for a current state of mind,” she explains. “I hope these pieces help whoever views them to explore what their feeling in that moment.”

Ramsey experienced first-hand the blessing of hospice services, when her father-in-law passed away at home in 1985. “It’s a tremendous service, performed in the most dignifying way, at exactly the right time,” said Ramsey. “I am glad to be involved and that these pieces found a home here.”

Visitors may purchase the artwork displayed in the Hospice Center and are encouraged to visit their studios. Howell’s artwork can be found on display at The Artists’ Gallery and Ramsey’s at the Massoni Gallery, both located in Chestertown.

We extend our gratitude to the artists that either donated their work or offered to lend their pieces; these efforts have allowed us to establish the foundation for our collection. If you are interested in lending or donating artwork to be displayed at the Hospice Center in Chestertown, contact Courtney Williams, manager of volunteer and professional services, 443-262-4112cwilliams@compassregionalhospice.org.

Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms

Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the State of Maryland, and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville, Chestertown and Denton. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one through The Hope & Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.

Mid-Shore Health Futures: The Chester River Health Foundation with Maryann Ruehrmund

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One thing that Maryann Ruehrmund, the executive director of the Chester River Health Foundation, hadn’t counted on as she developed annual fundraising plans for Chestertown’s UM Shore Medical Center, was the counter-intuitive response to Kent County’s  successful “Save our Hospital” movement.

Rather than see an increase in donations to do just that, the Chestertown River Health Foundation saw a actual decrease in giving starting a few years ago. While there might have been co-factors in the reduction of philanthropy, including, of course, the impact of the Great Recession, the question remained whether the Foundation would be able to continue keeping pace with the ongoing needs of the hospital in Chestertown.

To the great relief to Maryann, and her board of directors, the answer seems to be a resounding “yes.”

With the conclusion of the State of Maryland’s working group on rural hospitals last year, recommending that Shore Medical Center at Chestertown stay permanently open, along with the hospital’s parent, the UM Health System, wholly in support of this finding, there is growing evidence that the Foundation is once again on track in providing meaningful contributions to the hospital’s equipment and capital requirements.

The seeds of the Chester River Health Foundation were sewn in 1992 after a successful, campaign through which the community donated more than $2 million to build a three-story wing and completely modernize the facility. The Foundation was incorporated in 1985 as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, to provide a source of charitable donations to make state-of-the-art medical equipment, facility improvements and advanced healthcare education for employees, possible. It maintains its mission today, governed by a local, all-volunteer Board of Directors in support of healthcare excellence at the hospital.

The Spy, as part of our continuing series of profiling philanthropy, spent a few minutes with Maryann to talk about why the community’s charitable support is so vital to the long-term vitality of the hospital.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Chester River Health Foundation please go here