“Without your calls, I would have never made it to the office,” said Karla*, a patient being seen by the psychiatrist at the Shadyside Family Health Center. After being assaulted by a supervisor at her job, Karla had fallen into a deep depressive episode. I had first called Karla a few weeks after a doctor’s visit to see how she was doing with a medication change. Over the next few months, we talked on the phone several times and it was clear things weren’t improving. I brought her case to the attention of our psychiatrist and I eventually helped her schedule an appointment to follow up with her medications. I called her the day before her appointment and encouraged her to come, even though she was skeptical. Because of my position, I helped her receive the psychiatric care that she needed.
My role as a Behavioral Health Care Manager at the Shadyside Family Health Center is to connect patients to the resources and services they need to help their treatment go as smoothly as possible. I call patients in between their office visits and follow-up on how they’re doing with medication changes. I provide referrals to behavioral therapists, schedule appointments with our psychiatrists and encourage patients to follow-up with their PCP.
Every week, I bring five to ten patient cases of concern to the attention of our psychiatrist and she makes suggestions to their PCP about how to improve their psychiatric care. For instance, if a patient has taken a medication for many months but hasn’t fully recovered, our psychiatrist can make a recommendation about a different medicine to try. As a result of my position, patients are more likely to get higher-level psychiatric care if they aren’t improving.
Additionally, I help facilitate supportive group classes for patients with depression at the Shadyside Family Health Center. For example, at our first group in February, we talked about the basic symptoms and treatment of depression and helped patients identify symptoms that were most problematic to them. The most powerful part of these groups is witnessing the community that is created. Because depression is such an isolating disease, many people feel like they are alone in their symptoms. However, creating a comfortable space for patients to share their experiences can demonstrate that they are not the only ones fighting depression and anxiety.
Because of my AmeriCorps position at the Shadyside Family Health Center, our patients with depression and other mental illnesses receive additional follow-up and support that they wouldn’t otherwise. The patients I connect with gain an additional supportive person on the team to answer questions, help connecting with a behavioral therapist, help scheduling psychiatry appointments, additional treatment recommendations from our psychiatrist, and/or a supportive group environment to learn more about their disease.
This post was written by NPHC member Annie Davis.
Annie serves at UPMC Shadyside Family Health Center as a Care Coordinator.
*Name has been changed to protect patient identity