The Partial Hospitalization Program at Putnam Hospital has been a vital source of help for many, according to staff who have seen their patient volumes almost double throughout the years-long pandemic that has wreaked havoc on people’s mental health.
“People have lost their jobs, homes, relationships, family members and friends because of COVID-19,” said Kathleen McKenzie, a registered nurse in the hospital’s Behavioral Health unit. “This program has been very helpful for them to make sense of that and learn healthy coping skills.”
“Virtually all of our new patients have been touched by COVID,” added Robert Scelzo, a registered nurse in the Behavioral Health unit. “We are helping them get their life back.”
Putnam Hospital’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) provides outpatient mental health services, including dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), wellness education, crisis planning and social skill building, typically performed in a group setting.
Sessions also include art therapy, relaxation, nutrition and medication education. Staff also work with patients to set and attain treatment goals that include anything from landing a job or exercising.
The PHP team is comprised of five members, including psychiatrist Dr. Jerry Mathew, Scelzo and McKenzie, Diane Henry, a licensed certified social worker in psychiatry, and Erika Camilli, a licensed creative arts therapist.
Patients attend sessions 9:30 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday for six weeks. Due to the pandemic, PHP has been conducted virtually since March 2020, a change that has proven effective in reaching more people.
“Our clients have said this has been an integral part of their recovery,” Henry said. “Zoom allows us to reach people who are truly isolated, can’t travel or who couldn’t be in a traditional setting. We’ve also been able to see people not in our catchment area. Zoom has expanded our reach.”
PHP is often utilized as a step down from hospitalization and/or hospital diversion. Patients who qualify include anyone with psychiatric symptoms who has not responded to routine outpatient care, with no present risk to safety such as suicide or homicide, is able and willing to participate and attend all sessions and also not abusing drugs or alcohol.
“This program is more important than ever,” Camilli said. “We are here to help patients feel safe in the world again.”