Why is this good news? For two reasons: It means that seniors are getting help in a hospital that deals solely with the unique medical and psychiatric needs of the elderly. It also means that the outreach being undertaken by the facility’s Dr. Elliott Stein, Dr. Stephen Hall, and Sonya Ciancutti to inform both professionals and the public that such help is available, is yielding positive results.
The Home’s psychiatry hospital is the only one in San Francisco and one of few in the Bay Area that does not intermingle older adults with the rest of the population. This is significant, says Dr. Stein, the hospital’s medical director, because physical illnesses or conditions of later life can be underlying factors in the emotional disorders leading to hospitalization. As the hospital’s gero-psychiatrists and staff are trained specifically to deal with the elderly, they have the knowledge to diagnose and treat patients accordingly.
For the past year, Dr. Stein, Dr. Hall, associate medical director of psychiatric program development, and Sonya, along with other psychiatry staff, have reached out to community clinics, hospital emergency rooms, social services departments, and varying personnel about the Home’s psych hospital. “We’ve made a concerted and consistent effort to meet people in different facilities who may be resources,” Dr. Stein explains. “As a result, we’ve become better known and there’s an uptick in people referring us.”
The hospital put together a 90-day marketing plan, says Sonya, who, as the hospital’s program director/administrator, is in charge of the outreach effort. “We either go out into the community or talk to people on the phone,” she details. “We’re networking as a team, and broadening our outreach so that we can connect with as many professionals in geriatric communities as possible.”
Dr. Hall has noticed the results of their efforts. Visits to referring sites and individuals inform, educate, and create new relationships, he notes. “We’re helping to raise our profile as an important and essential community resource.”
The psych hospital serves elders who require temporary treatment for a variety of conditions – among them schizophrenia, depressive disorders, suicidal thoughts, and dementia – that have changed and are causing disruptive behavior. “This is an acute care unit, not the psychiatric version of a nursing home,” Dr. Hall clarifies. “Problems are addressed, and people return to their homes.”
The work is very gratifying, he acknowledges. “Our treatment team, along with the culture of the hospital, achieve a high level of success. Patients are grateful and so are their families. I feel good about the work we’re doing.”
“San Francisco has a lot of elders and a number of them will need us at some point,” comments Sonya. “I’m extremely proud of what we’re doing here.”