Meeting the Mental Health Needs of the Region
With more awareness than ever surrounding the importance of mental health, the demand for accessible psychiatric services has never been greater in the United States. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that in 2021, 57.8 million people experienced some form of mental illness. Of that population, approximately half received mental health treatment.
In hospitals across the Albany Med Health System, the need for those services reflects national trends.
“What we’ve had to do is respond to a demand for psychiatric and mental health services in recent years that could never have been anticipated,” said Jeffrey Winseman, MD, interim chair of the Albany Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. “The demand continues to rise and continues to mirror what we’re seeing nationwide.”
Providing Psychiatric Care Across the Hospital
Each System hospital provides a broad spectrum of psychiatric services. At Albany Medical Center, approximately 6,400 psychiatric consultations were conducted for patients throughout the hospital in 2022. From those consultations, patients were referred to experts within the Department of Psychiatry, including inpatient psychiatric services, or to external resources.
At Glens Falls Hospital, investments are being made to improve the level of psychiatric care provided to patients. Thanks to the support of generous donations and federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, the hospital is expanding its current crisis stabilization unit from seven to 13 beds to better support both adult and pediatric patients.
“Dramatic increases in demand for mental health services have led us to rethink how we help patients of all ages,” said Mary Shannon, vice president of clinical services at Glens Falls Hospital. “Our focus is on meeting that demand, whether patients come to us with a mental health emergency, are in need of support that results in a hospital stay or would be helped through some connection to another community resource.”
The establishment of the Albany Med Health System Transfer Center has improved how patients are connected to the care they need. Through the Transfer Center, each hospital communicates real-time information on bed capacity and the needs of patients based on their conditions.
System leaders are discussing how the early successes of the Transfer Center can strengthen the level of psychiatric care provided for the community.
“One challenge we have is the detailed and sensitive referral process associated with mental health cases,” said Lin Murray, manager of the System Transfer Center and interim director of clinical nursing operations. “We’re working closely with our behavioral health team system-wide to develop processes that address this concern and which will ultimately connect patients to the care they need in a more efficient way.”
A unique asset of the System is that each of its four hospitals has inpatient psychiatric beds available. By attaining the highest standard of quality in care at each hospital, patients and their families know they are receiving compassionate and collaborative evaluation, assessment, and treatment no matter where they may access care across the System.
Into the Clinic
Behavioral health services at Saratoga Hospital range from comprehensive psych evaluations in the hospital to individual and group therapy in an office setting. The hospital runs an Addiction Medicine Program at Saratoga Community Health Center that offers patients comprehensive and personalized treatment, including behavioral health counseling.
Along with Saratoga Hospital, Columbia Memorial Health provides mental health support in its primary care offices. Behavioral specialists are available to meet with patients who visit CMH’s primary care offices in Columbia and Greene counties with the goal of proactively providing support before an untreated condition leads to a mental health emergency.
Each hospital assesses the ever-changing landscape and mental health needs of patients. Albany Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry has introduced Parent/Child Interaction Therapy, a therapy that allows parents to hear recommendations of a clinician in real time as they work with children diagnosed with complex mental health issues.
It’s one of many examples of how a locally governed System makes decisions that enhance the level of care provided across the region.
“Each hospital is able to provide the services most in demand and identify new ways of working on problems that can benefit patients of all ages,” Dr. Winseman said.