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Taking Care to Beat the Heat: A Notice from the DMH Chief Clinical Officer

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
The Department of Mental Health Chief Clinical Officer urges medical directors and program administrators to develop a heat emergency preparedness plan.

Core Services Agency Medical Directors/Program CEO Administrators:

It’s summer and that means helping prepare consumers to endure unbearable heat. The pamphlet Heat Related Illness in Psychotropic Medication Users, from the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) and Dale P. Svendsen, MD, ODMH Medical Director, provides tips.

In the warm summer months, please develop a heat emergency preparedness plan. I recommend that you evaluate each consumer in your care. Risk factors such as chronic medical conditions, particularly heart disease or high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, alcohol use, psychotropic medication usage, being very old or very young, all put an individual into higher risk of heat-related illness.

Individuals who fall into the high-risk category should be further evaluated for heat exposure. Is their residence, place of employment, or training setting air-conditioned? Do they have appropriate clothing to wear during warmer weather? Are they taking more than one medication? Are they aware of the risk factors? Consumers and family members should be involved in education, monitoring risk factors and interventions.

The next step is to monitor the weather. Set a limit that will trigger you to take action. Two or more successive days of 85-degree heat or one day of 90-degree heat are suggestions. Lower temperatures should be considered a risk factor in conditions of high humidity. Notify staff and clients of the high heat condition and precautions to be taken. Make sure there are plenty of cool liquids available, encourage clients to dress in lighter clothing, and discourage prolonged outdoor activities.

We always should be alert for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, especially among high-risk clients. Heat stroke can lead to death if left untreated. Please advise your staff and caregivers of the symptoms to watch for and if it is suspected, seek medical care immediately.

I am requesting that you make copies of the pamphlet and distribute them to consumers, family members and all caregivers.


Steven Steury, MD
Chief Clinical Officer
Department of Mental Health