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Upstate Medical launches “high-risk” psychiatry program for youth at risk for suicide

By Eric Reinhardt


Danielle LaraqueSYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate Medical University has opened what it’s calling a “high-risk” psychiatry program.

It specializes in the treatment of youth and young adults (between the ages of 16 and 40) who are at risk for suicide or “other self-harming behaviors,” Upstate Medical said in a recent news release.

The medical school announced the program during a March 6 news conference held at the medical-arts building at 600 E. Genesee St. in Syracuse. The program will operate at that same address.

The program is “aimed at saving lives,” Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena, president of Upstate Medical University, said in opening her remarks.

“It’s unfortunate that there’s a need for this program … We hope that are our efforts could be preventive, that no young person reaches the point that they choose to take their own life. But we are dedicated here and passionate about the research and the health-care delivery mechanisms to ease the pain for families and for our youth and to provide a path forward. So, these programs are needed more than ever and critical in creating the necessary and timely interventions,” she said.

Laraque-Arena didn’t cite any data, but noted that “we know that intervention makes a difference.”

Those struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviors are “often” the patients that no one else wants to treat, Dr. Robert Gregory, professor of psychiatry at Upstate Medical University, said during the March 6 event.

“Why is that? Because they are high risk, high liability, and require intensive time and effort, more so than other patients,” he said.

Gregory also serves as the medical director for the “high-risk” program.

In the news release, Gregory called suicide a “major issue” for the region.

He pointed to the “just released” final report of a task force that focused on youth mental health. The report indicated that upstate New York has a rate of suicide that has “far outpaced the national trend.”

U.S. Representative John Katko (R–Camillus) and New York State Assemblyman William Magnarelli (D–Syracuse) had formed the task force.

In the report, the New York State Department of Health indicated that the counties of Onondaga, Cayuga, Oswego, and Wayne have a suicide rate that surpasses the statewide and national average.

Between 2008 and 2011, the suicide-mortality rate per 100,000 was 10.7 in Onondaga County; 11.1 in Cayuga County; 16.5 in Oswego County; and 10 in Wayne County, according to the Upstate news release, citing data from the report.

In his remarks, Katko provided a “couple facts” for the gathering.

The lawmaker said the second-leading cause of death for kids 24 years and younger is suicide, which is also the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans.

“We do not treat it with the same priority we do cancer or Alzheimer’s [disease] or other diseases,” Katko contends.

The “high-risk” psychiatry program uses a treatment called dynamic deconstructive psychotherapy, which Gregory developed through his work at Upstate Medical, per the release.

Doctors use the psychotherapy to treat “borderline” personality disorder and other “complex” behavior problems, such as alcohol or drug dependence, self-harm, eating disorders, and recurrent suicide attempts.


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PHOTO CAPTION: Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena, president of Upstate Medical University, discusses Upstate’s launch of a “high-risk” psychiatry program, which will operate at the medical-arts building at 600 E. Genesee St. in Syracuse. (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN)

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