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Upstate University Hospital set to open adolescent psychiatric unit

By Eric Reinhardt


Upstate University Hospital on Jan. 17 formally opened its $3.8 million adolescent psychiatry inpatient unit. The hospital describes it as its first inpatient unit dedicated to adolescents requiring acute psychiatric care. (Photo credit: Upstate Medical University website)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate University Hospital is preparing to open its first inpatient unit dedicated to adolescents requiring acute psychiatric care.

It will focus on the treatment of children 12 to 17 years of age. The average length of stay is expected to last five to seven days.

The unit is set to open Tuesday, Kathleen Froio, manager of media relations at Upstate Medical University, tells CNYBJ. Officials held a ribbon-cutting event for the unit last Friday.

Upstate University Hospital will staff the eight-bed unit with child and adolescent psychiatrists, nurses, and mental-health therapists.

The total cost to build the unit is $3.8 million, partially funded by capital dollars from Upstate, in addition to support from the Advocates for Upstate and the Upstate Foundation.

An increase in the number of inpatient adolescent psychiatric beds in Central New York was one of 17 recommendations included in the final report of the youth mental health task force that U.S. Rep. John Katko (R–Camillus) and New York State Assemblyman William Magnarelli (D–Syracuse) created in April 2015.

About the unit

The adolescent psychiatry inpatient unit, designed for acute admission and stabilization, will use dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT) as the key component of treatment.

“DBT can treat patients with suicidal and self-destructive behaviors, aggression and psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder,” Dr. Wanda Fremont, professor of psychiatry and vice chair of child psychiatry at Upstate Medical University, said in a statement.

Fremont also noted that 20 percent of U.S. children suffer from mental-health problems and the suicide rate among people ages 10 to 24 increased by 56 percent between 2006 and 2017.

“Suicide is now the second leading cause of adolescent death. Research shows that DBT helps patients cope with distressing emotions leading to changes in unhealthy behaviors, lower rates of readmission and reduced suicide attempts,” said Fremont.

The 7,500-square-foot unit includes a comfort room where patients can “deescalate and reduce agitation and anxiety” with items like weighted blankets, comfortable chairs, music, muted lighting, and quiet activities. The activity room will focus on individual and group activities focusing on art therapy and music.

The unit will also have a dedicated art and recreation therapist, and two occupational therapists, Upstate said.

Whenever possible families will be included in the treatment plan for patients, with unlimited visitation during visiting hours, as family involvement is an expectation of this unit and program. Patients will have their own rooms and the unit will be locked for safety, a standard protocol for similar inpatient settings.

Patients will be discharged to outpatient child and adolescent mental-health resources in the community, including mental-health clinics and private mental-health clinicians.

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