DANVILLE — Geisinger has been working on several initiatives that could bring some relief to the mental health crisis in the Valley.
Two behavioral health hospital facilities are currently in the planning phase. Geisinger also worked to have a mental health professional in more pediatric practices. A Selinsgrove woman passionate about programs that improve behavioral health services for children has donated $1 million to Geisinger’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health to help launch innovative programs for young people.
A huge number of teenagers in December needed inpatient pediatric psychiatric care, but there were no beds available in Pennsylvania. Some patients have been sent out of state to Maryland and New Jersey, according to Dr. Frank Maffei, chairman of pediatrics at Geisinger.
“It got better, but it’s still a problem,” Maffei said. “Pennsylvania’s statewide inpatient behavioral bed for children is still a must-have commodity. That’s why I’m excited about Geisinger’s joint venture with Acadia to open two new inpatient facilities,” said Maffei.
Geisinger announced last year that it would build two inpatient behavioral health facilities starting this fall in partnership with Acadia Healthcare Company. As part of the partnership, two new free-standing inpatient behavioral health facilities will be built — near Danville and in Moosic, Lackawanna County — with plans to serve adult and pediatric patients.
Just last week, Geisinger announced plans to purchase 32 acres from the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius, including the Motherhouse and Villas, to build a hotel motel similar to the Pine Barn Inn, along with its new hospital-outpatient behavioral health. facility originally planned for a site in Valley Township.
The partnership plans to consolidate the inpatient behavioral health programs of Geisinger Medical Center, Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital and Geisinger Community Medical Center into these new facilities, which will allow vacated units to be repurposed for additional capacity, including increased availability of private rooms, according to the announcement.
The facilities will meet current and future demand for adult, pediatric and adolescent patients struggling with acute symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
On-site behavioral health
Maffei said Geisinger has 16 pediatric outpatient clinics where there is behavioral health onsite in the office “not to refer but to transfer.” If parents and pediatricians notice that the child has a need, they can offer a behavioral health plan immediately.
“Paediatricians are becoming more empowered to recognize and initiate treatment,” Maffei said.
These 16 sites with on-site behavioral health include Lewisburg, Selinsgrove, Shamokin and Danville. There are also clinics where Geisinger is not necessarily on site but supports these families and consults with primary care physicians. Psychiatry also supports Pediatrics at Moshannon Valley in Philipsburg, Family Medicine at Woodbine, Community Care Peds/Family Practice in Kistler, and Lewistown Peds and Family Practice.
Dr. Angelica Kloos, Acting Medical Director of Pediatric Psychiatry at Geisinger, is a clinician who works in the area of behavioral health in primary care. She is a psychiatrist who is embedded in a pediatrics office at Geisinger Healthplex State College and helps co-manage psychiatric care with the primary care physician.
This new model can help eliminate the stigma associated with seeking mental health services, Kloos said.
“If a child is in an office with a pediatrician and is referred to see a psychiatrist, and is referred, the likelihood of following through on that referral might not be great,” Kloos said. “It could be scary to make that phone call. It might be easy to ignore. It can be difficult when you make 15 phone calls and can’t find anyone who can help you.
Having a mental health professional in the office tells the patient it’s normal, she said.
Dr. Erin Ezell, postdoctoral fellow in pediatric psychiatry at Geisinger’s office of pediatrics in Lewisburg, said the students had a tough time, especially with current events. She sees school-aged children and adolescents ages 4-18 with a focus on early intervention.
“Things in the media have come out that make kids stop and think and ask questions,” Ezell said. “It’s hard for parents to know how to answer these questions.”
In general, Ezell said patients suffered from anxiety, school avoidance, depression, and temper tantrum-like behaviors.
“Children missed out on a lot of the social growth they would normally have, lots of academic opportunities to build resilience, challenges and ways to overcome them in a school setting with their friends,” Ezell said. “It certainly had an impact on social skills and social anxiety. Having that cyber school option can, but not always, add to that social anxiety.
Ezell said families can practice coping together, including breathing exercises.
“Allow your children to take risks safely,” she said. “Talking. Spending one-on-one time with the kids can be really, really helpful.
$1 million donation
Philanthropist Susan McDowell, of Selinsgrove, pledged $1 million earlier this year to create a Pediatric Behavioral Health Catalyst Fund that will support projects and programs to promote innovation in healthcare behavior of children and adolescents, something in which she was personally invested. For more than 20 years. Five years ago, through his philanthropy and guidance, Geisinger launched the Pediatric Primary Care Behavioral Health program, which places pediatric psychologists in pediatric practices.
In 2003, McDowell developed House of Hope, a faith-based residential treatment center for at-risk girls that served an area of five counties, including Montour, Snyder, Columbia, Union, and Northumberland. McDowell later partnered with the University of Bloomsburg to create the McDowell Institute in 2012. The mission is to train education students to manage at-risk children, giving future teachers tools to manage health issues student behavior.
“I developed a wonderful heart for children who were hurting,” McDowell said. “He just stayed with me and grew up. I am always looking for a way to help.
House of Hope closed in 2010 due to lack of funding, but McDowell’s passion remained. Geisinger allowed McDowell to be part of the mental health discussion.
“What we’re doing now, we’re creating a catalyst fund,” McDowell said. “It will be open to doctors and clinicians for creative ideas, new ideas. How can skills and knowledge help surrounding communities? How can we help families? How can we help school districts? How can we help individual children? Let’s try to inspire creativity with the good staff we have so we can do more.
McDowell’s ultimate goal is to see “really good ideas” for addressing mental health needs.
“It’s such a widespread problem,” she said. “We hope to spark creativity and find new ways to address the behavioral health crisis.”
So many people are feeling anxiety and depression right now, she said.
“Hopefully to see us do some preventative things,” McDowell said. “Everyone needs help understanding what is going on right now. It’s national, from children to the elderly.