July 28, 2017

From Tamara Sale, Director, EASA Center for Excellence

Every day in Oregon, two to three more people develop psychosis for the very first time. That steady increase in new people translates into about 3 out of 100 people who will experience psychosis in their lives. If the person gets the right support and care quickly, it can be a blip, and if they don’t, it can mean long-term derailment from their life path. Psychosis means that the person has developed changes in their ability to perceive, interpret, or express information to the extent that they are no longer able to determine what is real from what is not. For more information on psychosis visit the Early Assessment and Support Alliance (EASA) website.

Early Signs

Oregon Health Plan has funded EASA to offer rapid access to effective, compassionate care and support. It now exists in almost all counties and similar services are growing rapidly across the U.S. – EASA’s website has a full listing.  Psychosis usually comes on gradually with changes in cognition and sensory processing along with hallucinations, and the beginnings of delusions. The common early signs of psychosis include changes in performance, perception and/or behavior.  These are usually new, noticeable, distressing, or causing interference. Changes to watch for include changes in

  • Performance. It may become difficult to do things that used to be easier, such as reading, understanding speech, producing speech, or motor coordination.
  • Behavior. The person may begin to do or say things that seem bizarre, reflecting changed perceptions and thought processes.  They may become fearful, confused or withdraw socially.
  • Perceptions. The person may see, hear, or otherwise perceive phenomena that other people do not; may become extremely sensitive to sensory input; may experience other people’s faces as becoming distorted; or may experience colors as extremely intense.  Often the person will recognize changes and may make statements to trusted individuals, such as “I think I’m going crazy,” or “My brain is playing tricks on me.”

Leadership and Ongoing Support

At any point in time, EASA serves about 400 teenagers and young adults. Graduates of EASA provide leadership and ongoing support to make sure that young people who experience psychosis and our community as a whole understand that this is a common health condition, support is available, and people who experience it make important contributions and can expect positive things in their futures. EASA provides a range of support for the community and for individuals and families in the early stages of psychosis. Local EASA teams reach out to schools, hospitals, medical clinics, churches, and service groups to help educate the community about psychosis, its causes and early signs, and how to get help. EASA teams provide consultation and assessment to try to understand what is causing the symptoms. EASA’s services are focused primarily on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with psychosis, but they also serve many other individuals where there is uncertainty about the cause and a need to assess and figure out the best treatment.

Helping the Family and Supporters

EASA’s services are focused on helping the family and supporters understand what’s happening, and providing effective treatment through counseling and practical support, medical services and prescribing as appropriate, supported employment and education, and peer support. EASA is working with local communities to encourage us all to organize around the needs of young adults, including developing more flexible care models, better access to care and coordination, and more robust supports for school, work, and independent living skill development.

EASA services are available regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Help us spread the word. EASA’s Young Adult Leadership Council wrote a vision statement that sums up what this is all about: “Uniting the voices and strengths of young adults and their allies to create a thriving community and revolution of hope.”  As the number of our allies grows, the movement builds. Learn more at www.easacommunity.org.