Upstate opens high-risk psychiatry program for youth, young adults at risk for suicide

Upstate opens high-risk psychiatry program for youth, young adults at risk for suicide

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- Upstate Medical University has opened a new high-risk psychiatry program specializing in the treatment of youth and young adults (ages 16 to 40) who are at risk for suicide or other self-harming behaviors. The program will address other conditions that commonly occur in these individuals, such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders and addictions.

“This program comes at a time when suicide rates are rising and access to mental health services is difficult. For this population, delaying care can have life-threatening consequences,” said Robert Gregory, MD, professor of psychiatry at Upstate Medical University. “We have all received the calls of desperation from families for help, but many times there is none available when it’s needed most. Services throughout the region are in demand and many mental health practitioners have long waiting lists.”

Gregory said suicide is a major issue for this region. The just-released Final Report of the Youth Mental Health Task Force (formed by U.S. Rep John Katko and Assemblyman William Magnarelli) indicates that upstate New York has a rate of suicide that has far outpaced the national trend.

The report notes the following:

According to the New York State Health Department, Cayuga County, Oswego County, Onondaga County and Wayne County have a suicide rate that surpasses the statewide and national average. Cayuga County’s suicide mortality rate from 2008-2011 was 11.1 per 100,000 people; Oswego County’s suicide mortality rate from 2008-2011 was 16.5 per 100,000 people; Onondaga County’s suicide mortality rate from 2008-2011 was 10.7 per 100,000 people; Wayne County’s suicide mortality rate from 2008-2011 was 10.0 per 100,000 people.

Gregory hopes the new program at Upstate will open up access to effective and comprehensive treatment that high-risk individuals need in order to achieve a sustained recovery.

The High-Risk Psychiatry Program uses a treatment called Dynamic Deconstructive Psychotherapy, which was developed at Upstate by Gregory, to treat borderline personality disorder and other complex behavior problems, such as alcohol or drug dependence, self-harm, eating disorders, and recurrent suicide attempts.

The treatment has proven highly effective, demonstrating a 90 percent response rate in separate studies. It is being applied nationally and internationally and has been included on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry or Evidence-Based Practices and Programs. Upstate is currently the only institution in Syracuse that provides this treatment.

Patients have the option of receiving a medication consultation to assess whether drug treatment for symptoms is indicated.  Though controlled substances are not prescribed as part of the treatment as they can sometimes increase irritability and worsen suicide-related behaviors.

Patients can self-refer to the program, or may get a referral from a physician. POMCO is currently the only insurer that provides payment for this treatment, but Gregory has been in discussions with other regional insurers to get coverage for these patients.

“Insurance coverage--or lack thereof--is another major obstacle to psychiatric care nationally,” Gregory said. “I’m confident that our ongoing discussions with insurers will be positive.”

In addition to Gregory, who is a nationally recognized expert in borderline personality disorder, substance use disorders and suicide prevention, the care team includes Carla Nita, a licensed clinical social worker with significant experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy to individuals diverse socioeconomic backgrounds with various diagnoses, including substance use disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, autism, post traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders applying evidence-based treatments.

Warning signs of suicide can be talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose; talking feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; acting anxious, agitated or reckless; withdrawing or feeling isolated, among other symptoms.

The Psychiatry High-Risk Program is located in Suite 217, 600 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, N.Y.

For information on the program, contact 315-464-7187.

Caption: Lisa and David Craig speak of their daughter, Corey, and the difficulty in getting her appropriate care. She committed suicide 11 years ago at the age of 16. The Craigs spoke a press conference today to announce the new a new psychiatry program at Upstate for youth and young adults at risk for suicide.

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