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Upstate Medical University announces new mental-health program for adolescents

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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Upstate Medical University has opened its new adolescent intensive outpatient program. It’s designed to treat adolescents aged 13 to 18 with psychiatric disorders and behavioral difficulties that interfere with their ability to function at home, school, or in their communities. The program is located on the third floor of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Building at 713 Harrison St. in Syracuse. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate Medical University on Tuesday opened its new adolescent intensive outpatient program.

It is designed to treat adolescents aged 13 to 18 with psychiatric disorders and behavioral difficulties that interfere with their ability to function at home, school, or in their communities.

The program will provide four to six weeks of intense services to adolescents whose symptoms are not responding to traditional outpatient services and who are at risk of needing inpatient services, Upstate Medical said in a news release.

The seven to nine hours of “intensive” treatment each week will include medication management; individual therapy; family therapy; group therapy; and multi-family group therapy. It’s all based on the dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) model of treatment that teaches coping skills and identification of triggers.

The program’s startup funds were awarded to Upstate Medical from a Central New York Care Collaborative grant totaling $1.3 million.

Dr. Wanda Fremont, vice chair for child psychiatry services at Upstate, applied for and won the grant on behalf of Upstate, and oversees two Upstate Foundation accounts that will provide additional funding for DBT training costs.

The program is located on the third floor of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Building at 713 Harrison St. in Syracuse. The space includes individual and group-therapy rooms, along with space for private-therapy sessions.

When fully staffed, the program has capacity for 40 patients per week and about 400 patients per year.

“Child psychiatric services have always been in short supply and are desperately needed,” Dr. Mantosh Dewan, interim president of Upstate Medical, said. “This program will shorten the length of stay on the adolescent inpatient unit and hopefully prevent admissions. The goal is to keep children at home and in school and this program is an important piece to the puzzle.”

 

Program specifics

Fremont said the dialectical behavioral therapy model teaches patients coping skills so they are not just admitted and medicated.

“DBT will allow patients to identify triggers, develop coping skills, manage frustration, and practice mindfulness. Patients will always meet with the same therapist for continuity’s sake, and the team will meet weekly to discuss patient care,” Fremont said.

Jessica Costosa-Umina, director of the adolescent intensive outpatient program, said it is aimed at keeping adolescents in their communities while helping them to stabilize and improve their functioning.

“The program is also designed as a step-down option for those who have completed a program providing a higher level of psychiatric care with the goal of helping individuals safely reintegrate into their life,” Costosa-Umina added.

The program will also offer a long-term, dialectical behavioral therapy-adolescent (DBT-A) option, which is an “intensive, highly structured” program providing evidence-based treatment to adolescents with extreme emotional instability, including self-harm and suicidal ideation.

In addition to Costosa-Umina and Dr. Robert Kallinicos, the program’s medical director, the program will employ a psychiatric nurse practitioner, five licensed clinical social workers, an intake and discharge coordinator, a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, a quality assurance coordinator, and a registration staff person, Upstate Medical said.

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com