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PMH to open Behavioral Health Clinic

Angela Lester

If you have visited multiple medical professionals with no relief for your symptoms: headache or abdominal pain, insomnia, chronic fatigue, unexplained weight loss or gain. Often the only medical professional left to visit is a psychiatrist.

But these symptoms are not all in your head. They are very real.

Consider visiting a mental health professional if you’ve had long-term, unexplained symptoms. The reason is that depression or anxiety could actually be the explanation. Often people find relief from chronic, unexplained physical complaints by treating underlying conditions such as depression or anxiety, conditions that are historically overlooked and undertreated.

The mind-body connection is well established, but mental health treatment still suffers from stigma and misconception. The belief that one can just “snap out” of depression with a tug of the bootstraps is widely held, but incorrect. Depression and anxiety are medical conditions like diabetes. And like diabetes, it cannot be treated by a decision to just snap out of it.

In many cases, however, treating underlying depression or anxiety brings rapid relief of long-suffered aches and pains.

Depression and anxiety are very common in older adults, but not commonly diagnosed or treated. Research shows that the majority of older adults and their loved ones accept their symptoms of depression as a consequence of the many losses experienced as people age: retirement, loss of social contact and driving privileges, loss of friends, loss of spouse or other loved ones, loss of income.

There also remains a strong stigma attached to mental health treatment that prevents many patients from seeking treatment, even when they know they need help. It is particularly important for older patients or their families to recognize that depression is not normal at any age, and it is not just an acceptable fact of growing older.

Until recently, convenient access to this kind of treatment has not always been easily available. Now, residents of Pocahontas County and surrounding areas can benefit from treatment under the care of a board-certified psychiatrist through Pocahontas Memorial Hospital’s soon to open Behavioral Health Clinic, an outpatient mental health service specifically for older adults.

The program will begin January 2, 2020 and operate Monday through Friday. The clinic will be located in the former medical office of Dr. Luis Soriano on Duncan Road. Individuals may self-refer or their primary care or other provider can refer them by contacting the clinic. Each referred individual will receive a free assessment from the program prior to beginning treatment – which will determine if they would benefit from treatment.

Angela Lester, a familiar face in the mental health field in Pocahontas County, has been selected as the Program Director for the new clinic and is excited to bring these needed services to the area. She is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with nearly 30 years of experience working in the behavioral health, substance abuse, geriatric and medical fields.

“Once admitted to the program, patients participate in up to three group therapy sessions a day with physician management of their mental health medications, and may receive individual and/or family counseling as needed,” Lester said.

The program coordinates medication management, therapy and discharge planning with other medical providers as needed and appropriate. Participants may initially come daily, depending on their needs, with participation tapering off to fewer visits as their symptoms subside. The average individual generally spends an average of about 12-to-16 weeks in the program, which is typically covered by medical insurance.

The “other expense” of their personal time is also an investment toward reducing overall medical costs. Persons with untreated mental health conditions like depression average 50 percent higher overall medical expenses.

There are many benefits of treatment, and with today’s convenient access to it, there are hundreds of potential patients in the community who would otherwise fail to get the help they need. For more information, contact the Behavioral Health Program Director Angela Lester at 304-799-7400 or arlester@pmhwv.org

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