February 9, 2012

Psychiatric Hospital opens outpatient step-down unit

Psychiatric Hospital opens outpatient step-down unit

The Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital (VPH) has opened an outpatient step-down unit for adult psychiatric patients who are improving, but still need active treatment and therapy.

As many as 20 patients, age 18 and older, can participate in VPH’s Partial Hospitalization Program at one time. The program, which runs five days a week from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., offers intensive psychotherapy and medication management, and at the end of the day patients go home and return the next day.

“The patients have a sense of independence and autonomy, but they’re still linked to a treatment team with a physician, social worker and nurse,” said Tammy Kugler, director of Social Work at VPH.

Tammy Kugler

Tammy Kugler

“They attend individual and group sessions, where care is individualized, but if they need to take a break and step outside of a group, that’s OK.”

The Partial Program even has its own courtyard entrance off 24th Avenue South.

Many of the program’s participants, who come from all over Tennessee and some nearby states, have just completed hospitalization at VPH.

Others have been hospitalized at one time, and have had a recent escalation of symptoms. Some may have trouble coping, but may not meet criteria for inpatient psychiatric treatment or their current outpatient therapy and/or medication is not working.

They have a variety of clinical concerns including bipolar, depression and psychosis and the average time in the program is about two weeks, although some stay for as little as a week and some might participate for a month. Patients exclusively seeking substance abuse treatment are not eligible for the program at this time, Kugler said.

“The program offers patients a way to ease back into home, family and work life,” she said. “It’s a great transition between the highly structured inpatient program and the next level of care, which is often the connection to outpatient follow-up appointments.”

The program is located at the Psychiatric Hospital and offers four group sessions each day. There are also medication education sessions and patients have access to a recreation area, a smaller room for family meetings, and a kitchen where lunch and treats are prepared for the group. Transportation is available to patients from the Davidson County area.

“The program offers a sense of community and that’s a wonderful thing. Our goal is to be the premier psychiatric hospital in the region, and this is just one more step in that direction,” Kugler said.

Physicians leading the multi-disciplinary treatment team are Jeffrey Stovall, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry, and Michelle Brooks, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Psychiatry.

“When a patient is hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital there has usually been a serious or potentially debilitating crisis,” Kugler said. “With the unemployment rate rising and the economy in crisis, we have been seeing a lot of people with no previous psychiatric symptoms.

"The Partial Hospitalization Program offers a physical hand-off to the next treatment team to ensure continuity of care as patients transition to outpatient services.”