Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV.
At Highland Hospital, one of our primary mission areas is to provide high quality behavioral health services to children and adolescents. We treat children and adolescents and their families every day, and provide high quality care services for acute behavioral health needs. Once the acute care needs have been met, we continue to care for those children and adolescents in our outpatient center, Process Strategies. What is missing in West Virginia, however, is enough capacity to provide care for children and adolescents who are acutely stable, but in need of additional care to enable them to return to their families and communities. These services are limited in our state, and too many of our children are being sent out of state to receive this level of care.
From July through December of 2013, 385 children under the age of 17 were receiving long term behavioral health care out of state. The region which includes Kanawha County consistently has the highest number of children placed out of state. More than a quarter of these children and adolescents were receiving care in a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) which can provide residential treatment services to children and adolescents with severe, complex symptoms of significant duration that have not responded to other levels of care. These programs offer individualized treatment to address the complex needs of these children and adolescents in a residential or home-like environment. Most of the children cared for in these environments have experienced trauma. Many of them have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Out of state and out of region placements, with the inherent separation from family and support systems, can further induce trauma in these children and adolescents.
It is our goal to reduce the trauma experienced by these children and adolescents by providing access to these services in our own community. By adding PRTF services to our continuum of care, we can use the expertise of our care teams of child and adolescent psychiatrists, therapists, professional and paraprofessional staff to provide short term residential care of children and adolescents to improve outcomes. With the addition of these services, we will be able to provide the full continuum of care—providing inpatient behavioral health services, outpatient care, and re-integration into the community for these children, adolescents, and families through residential treatment. We are in the planning phases for offering these PRTF services in our “old” hospital facility. We are excited to have the opportunity to provide PRTF services that will lead to sustained positive outcomes for young people with behavioral health problems in a safe environment, AND in our own state.
We will periodically update you on our progress—and we hope you will join with us to support this program. Bottom line, we believe that the youth of West Virginia deserve nothing less than to be cared for here at home surrounded by the people who care about them, and it is our goal to make that happen. Stay tuned!