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Health system broadens care with behavioral health practitioner

Correspondent, The Capital-Democrat newspaper
   ORANGE CITY — A new doctor has been working with the Orange City Area Health System to expand the range of care offered in the area of mental health. Dr. Dee Jay Donlin, Ph.D., brings experience in mental health services and is working with primary-care providers in the health system to offer behavioral health care.
   “Inquiring about a move to northwest Iowa, I visited with a doctor I was friends in college with [Dr. James Clemens] and with CEO Marty Guthmiller, and I was so impressed with the progressive atmosphere, core values, emphasis on customer care, of integrity and innovation, it seemed like a good opportunity to integrate behavioral health with what was already offered,” Donlin said.
Donlin began his practice in May of 2015 and with the team of family-practice doctors, offering appointments for consultation whenever there is a concern.
   He grew up just 30 minutes from Orange City. He’s familiar with northwest Iowa and its communities. His wife is also from the area, as is much of their family, all motivators for his return.
   Donlin graduated from the University of Minnesota with initial training in pediatric psychology and continued with clinical psychology at the Minneapolis Children’s Medical Center. There, he helped develop programs for conditions ranging from developmental disabilities to types of behavior disorders.
   A move to northern Minnesota offered more of a general practice, and Donlin began working with a broader base of clients, similar to his work in Orange City, helping people with mental illnesses.
   Recognizing that mental health is a real and treatable condition is the first step, Dr. Donlin said. “We live in an area where there is a fair amount of stigma. People are reluctant to be open to difficulties.”
   He encourages people to reach out, speak with their family practice doctor if they suspect they are struggling. “I want to work alongside family practice, helping people realize mental health issues are just as real and significant as physical issues. As we combat that and become more integrated, people will become more aware and accepting.”
   Often times it is the people with the biggest smiles that hide the deepest pain, said Orange City resident Brian De Jong. He has been battling depression since the 1990s.
   Conventional therapy and medical visits have helped him, De Jong said. He also advocates the importance of personal connections. “Share your story. Reach out and find people you can trust. You don’t need a ton of friends, but you do need at least one that will hold you accountable and will be honest with you.”
   De Jong seconds Donlin’s thoughts about acceptance of the disease. “What frustrates me most is the hush-hush mentality of this illness. People just don’t want to talk about it.”
   With the holidays in full swing, Donlin offers a few tips to help people cope with what can sometime be a stressful time.
   “I would encourage people to be aware of their own expectations,” he said. “Having expectations of the perfect meal, perfect conversation, people often behave differently. And, when expectations aren’t met, that is when we start to see problems develop.
“Don’t set your sights on things you can’t control, and take care of yourself,” Donlin said. One of the most important things a person can do? “During the holidays we tend to overextend ourselves. People need to learn to say no. Learn stress-relieving strategies that work specifically for them. When we take care of ourselves, we are then able to better care for others around us.”
   Stress-reducing techniques are different for everyone, Donlin said, and what may be good for one person may not be for another. Keeping a schedule, maintaining a budget so you don’t create new problems, exercise and not staying sedentary, writing, drawing, art, are all ways people can channel stress and take care of themselves.
   Donlin’s most important piece of advice is a simple one, “I often remind people, remember to be careful what you look for, because you will probably find it.
   “I encourage people to look for encouragement from others, thankfulness, gratitude rather than loneliness and disappointment… When you look for those things you are going to find them, and it will enhance your life experiences.”
   Patients do not need a referral to see Dr. Donlin, and if anyone thinks help is needed, making one phone call is the first step — 712-737-2000 is the clinic phone number, and his hours are typically 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A person may also speak with a family practice doctor to decide what the best treatment should be.
Appointments can be made with Dr. Donlin by calling the Orange City Family Medicine Clinic at 712-737-2000, or through your family practice provider.