Chair Files

Expanding Behavioral Health Services

As we close out National Mental Health Awareness month, I’d like to highlight a noteworthy effort to expand behavioral health services to adolescents in Searcy, Ark.

In July 2015, Unity Health, a 438-bed health system, opened Unity Health – Courage, a short-term, acute inpatient program for adolescents ages 12 to 17 who attend school and have emotional or behavioral issues. Patients are admitted to the program upon referral by a physician or school counselor. In addition, parents can call an intake coordinator from the Courage unit, who then helps determine the young person’s needs. Adolescent patients typically stay in the unit for 7 to 10 days, taking school classes during the day with an on-staff special-needs educator and receiving therapy and treatment. The care team may include a psychiatrist, therapist, nurse, special education teacher, therapeutic recreation specialist, dietitian, mental health technician as well as an occupational, speech and/or physical therapist.

And they didn’t stop there. To further improve and streamline services, Unity Health relocated its Clarity Health and Wellness clinic, which offers behavioral health services for all ages. The clinic, with three psychiatrists and several therapists in one convenient location, has improved patient access to behavioral health care. The health system has added a program to train new psychiatrists, some of whom are expected to stay in the area, further enhancing access to care for the people of White County and surrounding counties.

As program leaders have become more aware of behavioral health needs, additional plans are in the works to expand services into other counties. Unity Health recently opened a school-based medical clinic in Bradford, Ark., and is now offering behavioral health services, including an on-campus psychiatrist, to students and residents.

For more information on Unity Health’s efforts to expand behavioral health services, contact Brooke Pryor, director of marketing, at bpryor@wcmc.org. You can also read more about Unity Health and visit the AHA.org page on behavioral health, which provides information and tools to help hospitals navigate the changing behavioral health care system and understand national, state and local activities affecting behavioral health.

I’d like to applaud our colleagues in the field at Unity Health! It is efforts like these that are moving the needle, expanding access to care and improving behavioral health awareness across the entire care continuum.

Gene Woods, AHA 2017 Board Chair

 

  

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