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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2014 

Kings County Hospital Center Opens New Mental Health Services to Better Care for Adolescents in Crisis

State’s First Inpatient Unit Specifically Designed for Treatment of Psychosis in Patients Ages 16 to 23

Launches New “OnTrackNY” Outpatient Program to Help Adolescents and Young Adults and Their Families During First Signs of Psychosis

New Mental Health Services

Brooklyn, NY –  Kings County Hospital Center, part of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), is enhancing both its inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services to offer better care to adolescents and young adults in crisis. The hospital has redesigned its inpatient care model, opening the state’s first hospital unit of its kind that is designed for treatment of psychosis for patients ages 16 to 23. Kings County Hospital has also become one of the first hospitals to pilot the state-funded outpatient “OnTrackNY” program, designed to help individuals age 16 to 30 who have recently experienced psychosis for the first time in their lives.

Psychosis is an abnormal condition of the mind that causes an individual to stop thinking clearly, be unable to determine reality from imagination, and severely interferes with a person’s capacity to meet life’s everyday demands. The most common symptoms of psychosis include seeing, hearing, smelling or tasting things that are not there, paranoia, delusional thoughts and hallucinations. Psychotic symptoms can be seen in teenagers with a number of serious mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder (manic-depression), schizophrenia, and with some forms of alcohol and drug abuse. Early intervention of psychosis is most effective and can improve longer term outcomes.

“As one of the largest providers of behavioral health services in the City, we are proud to become a leader in new models of care that aim to close the gap in specialized services for adolescents and young adults with mental health needs,” said Ernest Baptiste, Kings County Hospital Center Executive Director. “Our goal is to help young people who may be experiencing the first stages of psychosis by intervening effectively to help them achieve their goals for school, careers and personal relationships before they are derailed at an early age by psychiatric issues.”

“Adolescents and young adults have special psychiatric needs that neither the standard pediatric or standard adult models of care adequately address,” said Joseph Merlino, MD, MPA, Deputy Executive Director for Behavioral Health at Kings County Hospital Center. “It’s critical that we reach these patients with age appropriate services at a time when they’re suffering their first episodes of behavioral abnormalities.”

The New Inpatient Unit
The new 15-bed inpatient unit is exclusive for patients 16 to 23 years old who have been diagnosed with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and related disorders. Typical symptoms of psychosis include disorganized thinking or speech, unusual beliefs or behavior, and seeing or hearing things that others do not.

In most facilities, adolescents below age 18 are typically cared for in pediatric units and patients over 18 are hospitalized on units with adults of all ages.

The new unit will adopt an integrated care approach based on the individual needs of each patient to assist them in recovering while also making the difficult transition into adulthood. Age appropriate programming such as hospital-based educational programs, group and individual treatments, regular family meetings, socialization, and adaptive skills development, will be offered. Patients will be cared for by staff with the experience and expertise needed to address the unique developmental needs of adolescents and young adults. The team includes board certified physicians in child and adult psychiatry, nurses, therapeutic rehabilitation professionals, social workers and psychologists.

Based on the number of individuals in this age category who were admitted to standard units in 2013, hospital officials estimate the new unit could serve as many as 100 adolescents and young adults annually. The new unit opened for care in January.

“OnTrackNY” Program
For young patients who can be treated in an outpatient setting, Kings County has also become one of four pilot sites in New York State to participate in the new “OnTrackNY” program. The program serves individuals aged 16 to 30 who have been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder and have had their first psychotic experience within the past year, and is designed to address common struggles related to school, work, relationships and identity, and provides the necessary tools to reintegrate into the community. The program also encourages a patient’s family or care takers to be involved in all aspects of the adolescent’s progress, including the initial assessment and the establishment of short and long-term treatment goals.

Patients in the “OnTrackNY” program will have a range of services available to them including medication management, support for seeking and maintaining employment and educational objectives, substance abuse treatment, illness management, suicide prevention, and family intervention and support. Individuals can participate in “OnTrackNY” regardless of previous treatment they have received. The program is designed to keep patients and their families engaged in treatment for up to two years. Kings County will work with the State to evaluate the effectiveness of “OnTrackNY” in its pilot phase.

“Studies have shown that schizophrenia usually emerges in young adulthood, and young adults who begin to experience symptoms of schizophrenia often drop out of school, lose or quit their jobs, and sometimes irreparably damage their personal relationships,” said Dr. Merlino. “This can lead to a lifelong cycle of poverty and dependency, or institutionalization. By addressing symptoms of psychosis early in young adults, when they first emerge, we can help these patients remain on track toward a healthy and productive life.”

Kings County Hospital Center’s Behavioral Health Center provides a broad range of services to residents of central Brooklyn regardless of ability to pay. For information about the “OnTrackNY” program, call 718-245-5242. For more information about the new inpatient services, patients and families can call 718-245-8837. Patients will need a full evaluation before admission. Learn more about KCHC's behavioral health services.

 


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