The Children's Institute Blog

Marking Mental Illness Awareness Week

Posted: Oct 13, 2017 by The Children's Institute


Nearly two years ago, Josh McKivigan was serving as assistant director of a Pennsylvania-based mental-health agency when he heard about The Children’s Institute’s approach to integrative health.

Patients in a behavioral health crisis were experiencing an integrative treatment model, he heard, and doing things like biofeedback, a non-drug treatment in which patients learn to control bodily processes that are normally involuntary, such as muscle tension, blood pressure, or heart rate.

“You really get to see the picture of the whole kid,” he said.

He left that job and has been at The Children’s Institute, working first as a behavioral health outpatient therapist and now as the Clinical Program Manager of Inpatient Behavioral Health, ever since. We talked with McKivigan and his colleagues recently to mark Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs through today.

“The Children’s Institute is just a very unique place – being able to collaborate, to have all of the disciplines together, and being able to talk to these patients in this customized way.”

That’s Dr. Paula Cerrone, who’s worked for more than three years here as a neuropsychologist and, more recently, as manager of outpatient behavioral health services. Both Cerrone and McKivigan divide their days between treatment and administrative duties.

“[Collaboration] is something that’s really special here,” Cerrone said. “And it’s all under one roof.”

What do they mean? Well, at The Children’s Institute, when a patient is seeking treatment for mental health or help during a behavioral health crisis, they also get assessed by a team of clinicians concerned with their physical well-being.

“I think that’s becoming a huge sort of story in healthcare,” Cerrone said. “A lot of physical problems can affect a child’s mental functioning and vice versa. It goes both ways.”

She cited a child who came to The Children’s Institute because they were grappling with cognitive issues associated with chemotherapy. We discovered the child was on the autism spectrum.

“Because we have multiple services, they were able to have a nice collaboration between services, which is pretty unique to us,”Cerrone said.

“On our inpatient Behavioral Health Unit, we also try to include the caretaker, the guardians and that child’s community treatment team; we look to involve them and bring them together with our treatment approaches,” McKivigan added.

Those services are more in need than ever. Through the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2015 we provided 83% more outpatient services than we did in the same period of Fiscal Year 2014, and 16% over the targeted initiative goal, according to our most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

Approximately one in five adults in the United States—an estimated 43.8 million people—experiences mental illness in a given year.

But treatment, though views of it are improving, still comes with a stigma. The Children’s Institute tackles this using evidenced base approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Health Therapy and by building a comfortable environment with the patient.

McKivigan said one patient, early in their outpatient treatment asked, “Will this be on my record?” Later, they missed one session and were incredibly apologetic, not wanting to skip out on their time with therapy. McKivigan shared how the working relationship and individualized treatment approaches with each patient help breakdown mental health stigmas.

“Therapy now is shorter. It’s much more focused,” Cerrone added. “And it’s targeted to find a solution.”


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