Mental health centers across the country have been developing ways to improve their quality of service for patients who are in need of mental care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has spent $54.6 million in 47 states and Puerto Rico to fund over 200 health centers in behavioral health services. In addition to funding, some states have added changes to their centers that will hopefully benefit patients significantly.
A triage center for mental health crisis opens today in Richland. Lourdes Counseling Center has created a Transitions facility, the first of its kind in the tri-cities. Officials have identified that there is a gap in care for mental illness patients. Vice president of behavioral health at Lourdes Health Network, Barbara Mead, stated that because of the facility “we’re able to help people quickly resolve a crisis and move back into the community rather than getting sicker and sicker.”
Transitions is equipped with 16 private patient rooms, an exercise space, long spacious hallways for those who need a walk, and bathroom fixtures and doorknobs specially designed to prevent self-harm by patients looking to loop cords or bed sheets. The facility will offer many services to those in need. A patient can be placed in a room while they await a psychiatric hospital bed, patients can use the space as a transition from hospital to home or they can receive care before their condition worsens to the point of hospitalization. Transitions, however, is not the only facility providing this type of service.
In Kansas, centers have introduced a way to lower emergency room visits and complications for those with KanCare. The health homes program provides a space to better care for those with psychosis, schizophrenia, major depression and other serious mental illnesses. The homes are not meant to replace primary care altogether, but rather to offer support for mental health patients who are often in and out of hospitals. The program will help to educate patients about conditions and treatment, finding a primary doctor, arranging transportation and formulating plans that can improve their health.
Laura Sidlinger, a nurse practitioner at Valeo Behavioral Health, noted how appreciative patients were when Valeo opened a primary mental health care clinic. Within the first nine months, they recorded 550 visits, a number which increased from 12 to 30 visits a week when the clinic expanded and added additional hours. The improvements made by the clinic allowed them to better serve a growing demand by patients for mental health treatment and education.
While these states improve on their facilities, practitioners in several other states have been untilized a new way to reach out to patients, Virtual therapy. This practice offers a revolutionary way for mental health practitioners to keep in contact with patients and reach those who may be unable to physically attend sessions. Since therapists are not required to do physical examinations on patients, the sessions that they take do not need to be in person.
Obvious restrictions are that the therapist will not physically be there. “You can’t touch the patient, or smell the patient. You can’t hand the person a tissue through the screen,” says Steven Hyler, a psychiatry faculty member at Colombia University. Despite this, many patients have found the service to be satisfactory in improving their mental health when their situation renders them immobile. So whether patients are receiving help at a facility or through screen to screen communication, the fact is, they are receiving help.
By Kamille Dawkins