Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
This week, my husband and I took our first child, our son to college. As I talked with another mom who had left her daughter at school in South Carolina, we talked about how we never believed it could be so hard to leave our child in another state, safe in the arms of a welcoming college community. Once I got past the emotional turmoil, I started thinking about how the parents of children and adolescents who must be hospitalized must feel. I especially thought about those parents who have had to seek services for their children out of state because those services, and in particular longer term psychiatric services, were not available to their children here in WV. I can only imagine their emotions.
Back in May of this year, I told readers to stay tuned to hear more about our Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) that we are planning for children and adolescents. At Highland, 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 from our own continuum of care 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 as I shared in this space in May, too many of our children are being sent out of state to receive this level of care. Most of the children cared for in out of state facilities 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, and as a parent, I cannot imagine the stress of leaving a child in another state to have their psychiatric needs met. I had a difficult enough time leaving my child at college!
At Highland, it is our goal to reduce the trauma experienced by these children and adolescents and their families by providing access to longer term psychiatric 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. I am pleased to update our readers that we have received the go-ahead from the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and because of the need for these services, we are in receipt of an order from the Health Care Authority officially exempting us from the Certificate of Need process.
With these approvals, we are moving forward to offer these PRTF services in our “old” hospital facility. Space revisions are underway, electrical work, lighting, painting, general cleaning and “sprucing up” is occurring, and we are in the process of writing job descriptions and programming. We will seek licensing and accreditation as appropriate. Our Highland Hospital Foundation Development Officer, Gail Carter, is diligently working to raise funds through donations and in kind gifts to make this dream a reality. Our goal is to be up and running by the end of the year, offering high quality services to children and adolescents in need.
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 continue to 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. As I said in May, stay tuned!