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Upstate Expanding Youth Mental Health Outpatient Services

John Smith

Upstate Medical University is expanding its mental health services for youth to address disorders and behavioral difficulties in an outpatient setting. A ribbon cutting was held Tuesday.

Interim President and Psychiatrist Dr. Mantosh Dewan has been waiting nearly 20 years to add the services.

“This is the second step in having an intensive outpatient program so we can keep inpatient stays low, and hopefully even prevent inpatient stays,” he said.

Mark Thayer is Director of the CNY Field Office for the State Office of Mental Health. He says Upstate’s new outpatient mental health services for youth will also assist them as they step down from a higher level of inpatient care.

“Kids are most at risk for the 30 days after they are discharged from inpatient services. This is an opportunity to provide them the supports they need in order to be successful in that transition back to the community.”

Thayer notes that telemedicine for mental health has been an important option during the pandemic. 16-year-old Cora Dharoot is a former patient at Upstate who’s dealt with various emotions that led to difficulty at home and with peers.     

“It was really hard at first and we had to work towards it, but it got to a point where we could actually talk about the problems we were having, and I was able to recognize my habits, how I can change them, and what steps I could take to keep me safe from myself.”

As everyone adjusts to a new normal with the COVID-19 pandemic, how are youth and teens dealing with social distancing? Upstate Psychiatry and Behavioral Chair Dr. Thomas Schwartz says it depends on some key factors including the use of technology. 

“Certain teenagers have done great, if they’re tied into social media, play online gaming and have all their friends that way. It’s interesting that some people have done remarkably well, but some people may not have that kind of access or they don’t like online things or social media,” Schwartz said. “They’ve been completely disconnected. They don’t get to see their friends in schools since schools are shut down and there aren’t any activities. That hurts a certain subset of people.”

The newly expanded outpatient mental health services for youth at Upstate has already seen new patients.  The university also opened an inpatient psychiatric floor for youth earlier this year at the hospital.