Published on February 10, 2020

OH expands mental health program

by Renee Beasley Jones, Messenger-Inquirer

Owensboro Health Regional Hospital’s behavioral health unit continues to expand its services.

Last month, the unit added a new level of care: an intensive outpatient program.

OHRH now offers the only program of that type in the region with the exception of Madisonville’s Baptist Health Hospital.

The intensive outpatient program provides an in-between level of care for people 18 and older whose cases aren’t severe enough for hospitalization but who require more support than traditional outpatient programs offer.

In the traditional outpatient program, visits with a therapist vary between weekly to monthly. Visits with a psychiatrist range from monthly to every three months.

With the new program, patients will see a psychiatrist within two days of beginning treatment. An intensive outpatient program requires the patient to visit with a psychiatrist monthly, but the availability exists for more.

Group therapy takes place three times a week for up to three hours a day. Individual therapy is available weekly.

The program was designed for patients who struggle with severe depression, excessive worry and anxiety, confusion or delusional thinking, mood instability, difficulty making decisions or past trauma.

“It’s a much-needed service the community has not had,” Dr. Debra Bunger, medical director of the behavioral health unit, said of the added level of care.

A prior community-needs assessment identified mental health as a priority, so in 2018, OHRH started to expand its program.

At that time, the inpatient unit model changed from a crisis treatment plan that allowed two- or three-day inpatient stays to a plan that doubled the number of days patients could remain hospitalized.

Psychiatrists were added at the hospital and OH Medical Group-Behavioral Services.

Bunger started working in a temporary capacity for OHRH’s behavioral health unit in October 2018. Last summer, she accepted employment as the unit’s medical director.

In the intensive outpatient program, group sessions are designed for up to 10 patients. The first group session has formed and has three patients, said Heather Henderson, director of OHRH’s inpatient behavioral health unit.

Group meetings take place from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The program will start with one group. If the demand exists, another group or two may be added in the next year to 18 months, Henderson said. One of those may be for patients with co-occurring disorders, or a dual diagnosis of mental health issues and substance use.

The hospital’s intensive outpatient program lasts from six to 10 weeks, depending on individual patients’ needs.

The program uses evidence-based treatment methods, an interdisciplinary team approach and a patient-centered environment.

An intensive outpatient program offers several advantages, Henderson said. “As we develop our processes, we will be able to transition people from the inpatient program to the intensive outpatient program.”

That will free space in the 12-bed unit for patients who need more acute care.

If doctor referrals are required for treatment, the hospital’s access team will provide assistance. For more information about OHRH’s new intensive outpatient program, call 270-417-3724.

“We’re really excited to offer this to the community and hope to help as many people as we can,” Henderson said.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.