MCHC Health Centers is excited to announce the arrival of Roshanda Grayson-Thomas, a certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner who will provide telehealth to patients in both the Lake and Mendocino Counties while continuing to reside in her hometown in northwest Indiana.
“Mendocino County reminds me of the small community I come from,” Grayson said. “Places like Ukiah and Laytonville have the same issues as other small communities across the country.”
With her training, Grayson could work anywhere. She chose MCHC because she believes this is where her work will have the biggest impact. Grayson’s arrival doubles the number of psychiatric nurse practitioners at MCHC, which she hopes will make a big difference for the community. She also said she believes MCHC’s team-based approach allows patients to get better care because providers from various specialties can collaborate.
MCHC CEO Rod Grainger said he was pleased to be able to expand access to care, especially psychiatric health support, given the community’s ever expanding need.
“Roshanda is a great fit. She understands the challenges our patients face and is incredibly well trained to support them,” he said.
Grayson said her primary role is psychiatric medication management and is thankful MCHC’s system allows her to work hand-in-hand with therapists and other providers. She noted that no amount of medication can fix all of a person’s problems, so for a patient to get the best care, providers need to understand what is going on physically, mentally, and socially.
“Mental health impacts physical health and vise versa. Having all the components of healthcare together in one place means patients don’t have to get a referral and wait two years to see someone. Instead, MCHC’s approach can get patients the care they need right away and providers can get a view of a patient’s overall health instead of just one piece of it,” Grayson explained.
MCHC’s holistic approach to health makes it easier for multiple providers to work with a patient to create a common plan that helps them meet their goals and live a more productive life.
Helping people has been a lifelong passion for Grayson who became interested in medicine at the young age of 15 when she nursed her then-friend (now husband) back to health from a motorcycle accident that left him nearly paralyzed. Helping him through his recovery made her realize she wanted to “make a difference in people’s lives.”
Initially, Grayson planned to help others by becoming a teacher, but at age 19 she shifted to healthcare and has never looked back. She started as a certified nursing assistant and quickly became a licensed practical nurse. Working in a retirement community, she spent time with elderly patients whose families rarely visited. It was here that Grayson recognized the vast need in healthcare for greater mental health services.
“The patients I worked with at the retirement community didn’t have family to visit, so I became a family member to them. I would have conversations with them, look at pictures with them, and offer them the companionship they needed,” she said.
After going back to school to become a registered nurse, Grayson began working in a hospital psychiatric ward where she knew she was getting closer to her purpose. It became clear to Grayson that psychiatrists were getting older and retiring, and that there were fewer providers to meet the growing demand. Grayson went back to school in 2017 and became a psychiatric nurse practitioner in 2020.
Grayson is excited to start working for MCHC, and pleased she can continue to live in her community while providing all the benefits of telehealth to her patients.
“Telehealth means an internet connection or phone system is all a person needs to make their appointment. Consistency can be very important for patients who need refills of their medication or to have regular check-ins,” Grayson said. “Telehealth allows people to seek mental health services where they are comfortable, in their home… It allows for more privacy and doesn’t require them to come into the clinic for every office visit, which can be hard.”
Although Grayson believes the stigma around seeking mental health services has decreased in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it still exists. She encourages people to seek care before their problem worsens.
“My motto is, ‘It’s ok to not be ok.’ The sooner someone notices their norm is out of whack and seeks mental health services, the better,” Grayson said. “Small depression isn’t small. It can start as two days in bed, then five, then a week…Mental symptoms get worse just like physical symptoms. Seek services before you are behind the eightball and it’s harder to recover.”
The ability to reduce the harm caused by serious mental illness, up to and including hospitalization, is one of the biggest reasons Grayson chose to work in outpatient care. Hospitalizations can be mentally and financially draining. Grayson enjoys getting people the psychiatric care they need early enough to avoid a hospital visit.
As an African American woman in healthcare, Grayson takes pride in helping communities that have been traditionally overlooked and underserved. It is one of the reasons she felt she would mesh well with MCHC and its mission as a federally qualified health center to provide culturally competent care.
“My approach is a little different. A lot of minority groups have never seen a colorful woman like me in healthcare,” Grayson said with a smile. Then, more seriously, she continued, “I know where they come from and I don’t judge.”
To get a better sense of Mendocino County, Grayson traveled out from Indiana to immerse herself in the community she will be serving.
Grayson did eventually fulfill her original dream of teaching. In addition to working directly with patients, she is an instructor at Ivy-Tech Community College where she teaches the next generation of nurses. She also passed on her passion for nursing and helping others to her four children. Her eldest is working as a registered nurse at the University of Chicago and her second eldest is currently studying to become a nurse.
Grayson, who is currently accepting new patients at MCHC, encouraged anyone who thinks they might benefit from behavior health support to call for an appointment without delay.