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AIOP officially opens

Upstate announces new mental health program for adolescents

Upstate Medical University has opened the new Upstate Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program, designed to treat adolescents age 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. 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—all based on the dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) model of treatment that teaches coping skills and identification of triggers. 

Wanda Fremont, MD, vice chair for Child Psychiatry Services at Upstate, says 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, PhD, program director of the Upstate Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program, says in addition to 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.” 

Upstate’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program will also offer a long-term Comprehensive 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. “DBT-A is a 24-week program that will provide individual, family and multi-family therapy, in addition to phone coaching and medication management,” Costosa-Umina said. 

Thomas Schwartz, MD, professor and chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Upstate, says Upstate’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program is unique and creates a bridge between care provided to the most severely ill inside the hospital and where patients are typically treated in office-based mental health settings following hospitalizations.

“We hope this program lowers suicide rates after hospital stays and reduces readmissions to the hospital. It is one step toward a more cohesive system and will provide more focused care at a vulnerable point for these adolescent patients,” Schwartz said.

“Child psychiatric services have always been in short supply and are desperately needed,” says Upstate Interim President Mantosh Dewan, MD. “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,” Dewan said.

Upstate’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program will fill a gap in the continuum of psychiatric care for adolescents within the Syracuse community, as Syracuse is the only area in the upstate New York corridor that, to date, had not provided any intermediate levels of psychiatric care for this population. “The new IOP and DBT programs complement one another in that they both employ DBT treatment, further strengthening the continuum of care for this high-risk population. They also complement the inpatient unit at Upstate University Hospital, which also provides DBT treatment,” Costosa-Umina said. 

In addition to medical director Robert Kallinicos, MD, and program director Costosa-Umina, 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. When fully staffed, the program has capacity for 40 patients per week and approximately 400 patients per year. 

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

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

“Upstate has committed to the long-term support of the program beyond the initial grant funding from the CNY Care Collaborative,” Fremont said.

“The need for child psychiatric services is growing, and Upstate is committed to meeting this challenge with the support of Office of Mental Health Commissioner Ann Sullivan, MD, U.S. Congressman John Katko and New York State Assemblyman William Magnarelli,” Dewan said.

Parents and patients interested in learning more about the inclusion criteria may call 315-464-3191. 

Caption: Cutting the ribbon on Upstate's new Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program are, from left, Upstate Interim President Mantosh Dewan, MD; patient Cora Dhamoon; U.S. Rep. John Katko and New York state Assemblyman William Magnarelli.