The New and Improved Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods

entrance-wesleyMental illness is an epidemic in the United States today. In the state of Georgia, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death (www.namiga.org). As more and more people are seeking treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses, there is a rising need for more treatment options. Sitting down with Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods Clinical Administrator, Jen Schuck, helped to shed light on how Emory Healthcare, is working towards addressing the needs of this rising epidemic.

In the past year, Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods (EUHWW) has undergone significant changes. Ms. Schuck says EUHWW as a whole, are trying to move away, “from the negative stigmas” by referring to psychiatric services as “behavioral health.” In addition to promoting a more positive way to talk about mental health, Ms. Schuck explains how EUHWW has essentially re-vamped the treatment method for behavioral health. Inpatient behavioral health has two units and offers two different outpatient treatment tracks. One unit is for “acute behavioral services such as paranoia, delusions, hallucinations or schizophrenia type illnesses” says Schuck. The second inpatient unit is for patients with medical co-occurring illnesses. The two tracks recognize the differences between patients and treating them to meet their specific needs. “We have to provide patients with life skills or coping skills for discharge readiness” says Schuck. She also reports the inpatient units are largely “stabilization” units. After receiving short term inpatient treatment, patients can step down to outpatient treatment—and again EUHWW offers two different tracks patients can choose from, based on their specific needs. Outpatient behavioral health services has different levels of acuity-

  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
  • Continuing Care Program (CCP)

This breakdown makes it, “so we are always caring for the patient” throughout their course of treatment. Schuck says patients should be “treated for 6 to 8 months” post acute episode. The second outpatient program track offers patients a Transitional Care Clinic. Essentially, a nurse driven program for patients not going the PHP/IOP/CCP track. The nurse will contact the patient following their discharge from their inpatient stay. The Transitional Care Clinic follows patients for 30 days post-discharge and will make contact with the patient within 7 days of their inpatient hospitalization. This ensures patients are receiving the proper after care treatment. Schuck summarizes this new structure as, “patients who are inpatient can either go the PHP track post discharge or the Transitional Care Clinic track. Either way—it allows us to be more engaged in their after care.” Thus reducing recidivism because the patient will be supported long-term, rather than only acutely.

How do these changes impact the general community, you ask? Schuck says “number one, it provides easier access to behavioral health services. Gives ability to manage behavioral health services with comorbidities which is not commonly treated.” She also says being backed by a university, gives “access to cutting edge” treatment options for the community. She emphasizes the newly structured behavioral health systems at EUHWW serves patients who are “more fragile” and is special to the Atlanta area community because traditionally, medical and psychiatric co-occurring illnesses are not treated together.

When asked for her thoughts in general on psychiatric services for the 21st century at EUHWW, Schuck referred back to how the new treatment structures are more cohesive. She reports also EUHWW has a Neuromodulation clinic, which partners with Treatment Resistant Disorders (TRD) clinic to provide patients with ECT (electro-convulsive therapy—which is much less invasive now as it was in previous years), ketamine infusions, and Emory Healthcare has also just launched RTMS (Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Services). Schuck reports this will provide options to patients other than ECT—RTMS uses magnetic brain waves to change the brain chemistry in people with mental illness. Schuck reports the overall “global” goal is for the programs to continue to care for people beyond the walls of this hospital. She hopes to bridge our care continuum to outside providers and be able to treat the whole patient—rather than just one piece. When asked why families should choose Emory Healthcare for their behavioral health needs, Schuck references the above re-vamped treatment structure. She also reports such changes supports EUHWW moving towards, “being a world class treatment facility” providing individualized treatment. Schuck hopes in the next 5 years, that EUHWW psychiatric services will be expanded. She also says behavioral health needs will increase by 10% according to strategic planning and that “we need to be ready.” She re-emphasizes her goal of community outreach—having our continuum of care stretch beyond the four walls of our hospitals—reaching into the community. When asked what she would want the community to know about EUHWW, Schuck says “we have re-invented ourselves” explaining we are apart of a greater system within Emory Healthcare by creating a new identity, we are not a nursing home, and serve more than just geriatric patients; requiring many cultural changes. Schuck reports, “we are getting to a place that is more comprehensive” treating the acute system for long-term. Thus, it is tapping into a larger “brain health system”, providing care for more patients for longer time periods—a connection that other systems may not have. This is also a connection that could save a life. We are all in this together. Together, with the newly re-invented structures at EUHWW, we can help patients and families thrive in mental health wellness.

Emory Healthcare Behavioral Health Services:
Inpatient treatment- 404.728.6222
Outpatient treatment- 404.778.5526
PHP/IOP/CCP- 404.728.4776.

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