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Nassau Health Care Corporation’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Prepared to Address Post-Pandemic Spike in Mental Illness in Underserved Communities

Nassau Health Care Corporation

Nassau Health Care Corporation’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Prepared to Address Post-Pandemic Spike in Mental Illness in Underserved Communities

May 10, 2021

East Meadow, N.Y., May 10, 2021 – Nassau Health Care Corporation (NHCC), a leading healthcare provider serving Nassau County, Suffolk County, and parts of Queens, provides vital psychiatric services to uninsured and under-insured patients through the Outpatient Mental Health Center, the Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment Center, and the Psychiatric Emergency Department. As vaccination rates rise, the Department prepares to study and respond to a post-pandemic spike in mental illness with funding from the Von Tauber Institute for Global Psychiatry.

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is one of Nassau University Medical Center’s busiest departments. Their staff provides crucial psychotherapy and psychiatric care to patients through the Outpatient Mental Health Center. They also operate a robust Psychiatric Emergency Department (the only separate, self-contained emergency unit for psychiatric crises in Nassau County) and the County’s largest inpatient program, the Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment Center. The inpatient unit is also Nassau County’s only hospital-based, comprehensive detoxification and 28-day rehabilitation service. Throughout the pandemic, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science has continued to provide inpatient and outpatient services for approximately 2,000 uninsured or under-insured patients.

Dr. Constantine Ioannou, the Department’s Chairman, leads the team that oversees its operation. The Department primarily serves Long Island residents with severe and persistent mental illnesses and chronic substance abuse issues, particularly members of underserved, multiethnic communities for whom access to healthcare is limited. Finances, access to a car and/or technology, as well as personal and cultural disbelief in the need for psychiatric care are all common hurdles that prevent individuals in these communities from getting the care they need, says Dr. Iaonnou. While these challenges are not new, the flaws in the system designed to support these communities became more evident with the added pressures of the pandemic. Increased unemployment, an inability to carpool, as well as heightened social and economic stress meant patients had more need for care, but less access to services.

The Department’s staff quickly rose to meet the community’s heightened need. They transitioned outpatient care to telehealth counseling and the Center remained opened for inpatient and emergency psychiatric care. The team of doctors, residents, trainees, social workers, registered nurses, and patient care specialists provided around-the-clock care to patients experiencing psychiatric crisis. When many other facilities shut their doors, Dr. Ioannou says, his staff demonstrated an unwavering commitment to their patients and to the Long Island community.

As vaccinations continue to roll out on Long Island, Dr. Ioannou and his staff are preparing for a spike in post-pandemic mental illness. Many individuals in underserved communities have lived with untreated illnesses, a lack of medication, substance abuse, and other health crises since the pandemic began in March 2020. Moreover, it has been well-documented that Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The Department will provide research grants to junior faculty and trainees to better understand the effect that poor access to healthcare, coupled with the social and economic burdens of the pandemic, has had on mental health in underserved communities. Funded by the Von Tauber Institute of Global Psychiatry, this research will examine how the pandemic amplified mental health disparities.

The Von Tauber Institute of Global Psychiatry is a core component of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ long-standing tradition of academic insight. The Institute began with a generous gift from Long Island psychiatrist Dr. Olga Von Tauber and her husband, Dr. Robert Von Tauber. The Institute seeks to better prepare future medical professionals to care for patients with different cultural and ethnic experiences. To achieve this goal, the Institute produces culturally informed training models and funds essential graduate student and junior faculty research into mental health disparities.

In addition to their academic efforts to record and analyze the post-pandemic spike, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences will continue to serve the community through the operation of its many facilities. The Outpatient Mental Health Center provides the highest-level of interdisciplinary care in child and adult psychiatry and psychology. Their staff specialize in a range of psychotherapies, including Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, Affective Phobia Therapy, and Art Therapy, among others. They also provide group therapy, such as Stepping Stones, for those living with chronic mental illness and in search of social and clinical support.

Outpatient services are currently provided through secure telehealth technology. The outpatient clinic is open from 8am to 5pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 8am to 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In line with Nassau Health Care Corporation’s mission to care for Long Island’s most vulnerable populations, extended hours allow the clinic to see as many patients as possible during and after traditional working hours. The Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment Center and Psychiatric Emergency Room are open 24/7. Additionally, the Department has bilingual medical professionals for those seeking support in Spanish and provides interpreter services for those who speak other languages (including all South Asian languages) at no cost to the patient.

All treatment facilities housed under the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Nassau University Medical Center accept uninsured patients and patients insured by Medicare or Medicaid, with limited spots available for those with private insurance. Any community members in need of mental health services are encouraged to call the outpatient clinic to schedule a consultation at (516)-572-6822. Further, anyone in need of detoxification services should call (516) 572-6740, while those in need of rehabilitation should call (516) 772-9402.

Niki Jones Agency
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