The building that housed Dr. Luis Soriano’s medical practice is once again serving as a center for health with the opening of the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic.
At its open house January 17, visitors were encouraged to take a tour of the upgraded facility and meet program director Angela Lester and psychiatrist Dr. Jeffry Gee, who will provide services through The Behavioral Health Pavilion of the Virginias.
Lester provided tours of the facility and explained the programs offered at the clinic.
“We’re a geriatric program,” she said. “We actually are going to admit [ages] fifty-five and up. We’ll start off pretty much with group therapy – doing three groups a day, three days a week. It’s pretty intense and then, it will step down from there to however many we need.”
Along with the group therapy sessions, Lester said the clinic will provide treatment planning for patients, as well as individual sessions.
Because Gee is located in the Princeton/Bluefield area, he will be “seeing” patients at the clinic through telemedicine – Gee will use the computer at his office to video conference with patients in a private room at the clinic.
“I was so excited about that,” Lester said. “I’ve been very impressed with him. I know when I worked at Seneca [Health Services] years ago, I certainly referred a few patients down there.”
Patients may be referred to the clinic through their primary care physician or those interested in the programs offered may refer themselves. After an initial evaluation with Dr. Gee, the patient is given a specialized program for their needs.
“We are partnering with Diamond Health Care which specializes in setting up these programs for the geriatric population,” Lester said. “They do inpatient and partial hospitalization, cardiac rehab programs and things like that, but this one – behavioral health – is a desperate need in our community. We don’t have anything that is intense enough.”
While there are similar mental health care programs in the county, Lester said she is most excited about offering group sessions which she thinks will help the patients reach out more.
“Groups have proven to be something that is really beneficial with geriatric folks because they can relate to each other,” she said. “That’s one of the beauties of group is you can meet with other people that have like concerns and learn from each other.”
Sometimes, a major factor in seeking medical treatment is whether or not it is affordable, but Lester assures that the clinic will accept insurance, including Medicare.
“Medicare is really good with this,” she said. “They certainly advocate a lot for it. Historically, there’s not much that we’ve been able to access for older folks with Medicare because Medicare has a lot of limitations on it, but they’re not limiting too much on this. They’re very supportive with this.”
The clinic is open to accepting patients not only from Pocahontas County, but surrounding areas, including counties in Virginia.
Knowing the many difficulties the aging community faces, Lester said the clinic is dedicated to making sure anyone interested in the receiving care will get it. This includes offering transportation. At this time, the clinic is linking up with public transportation to ensure patients make it safely to the office and will soon have a van of its own to transport patients.
For Lester, the clinic is a return to what she loved best about her job – working with the geriatric community. She has been in the metal health field for decades and began her career providing care for older patients before she joined Seneca Health Services, then later Youth Health Services.
While she enjoyed working with children through YHS, she said she also loves working with the elderly and hopes to help those in need through the clinic.
“When I first found out about this, I was very excited to think about becoming a part of it,” she said. “I’m hoping that it will be something this community really embraces because there is such a need here. It’s long overdue.”
The Behavioral Health Clinic is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For more information on the clinic and its programs, call 304-799-1075 or email Lester at firstname.lastname@example.org