Hoping to improve upon shorter life expectancies for the mentally ill, Woodhull Hospital opened the Center for Integrated Health on Monday, November 28th.
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, adults with serious mental illness die an average of 15 to 25 years earlier than the general population. In addition, chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease accounts for as many as 60 percent of these deaths. Screenings for many of these chronic conditions will be offered at the center, which is expected to serve 1,600 patients annually.
“This center will integrate [our patients’] behavioral healthcare needs and their medical needs in one place,” said George Proctor, senior vice president of the North and Central Brooklyn Health Networks and executive director of Woodhull Medical Center. “This also will enable us to increase primary care access, in terms of our medical clinic as well, because these patients are currently in our medical clinic and will be able to come here for this one stop service.”
Dr. Leonel Urcuyo, chief of psychiatry at Woodhull, said, “Our psychiatry patients have varying and complex healthcare needs. The Center for Integrated Health is designed to help our patients with all of the issues that can affect their health and quality of life and ensure they receive the best quality care in an efficient and customer friendly environment.”
One benefit of combining medical and psychiatric treatment deals with psychiatric medications. Medical doctors and psychiatrists can now confer daily about their patients, and adjust medications accordingly, based on a patient’s medical and mental health condition. “We noticed that patients with mental illness, behavioral health issues and at the same time medical problems were having tremendous troubles with their medical illnesses,” said Woodhull’s Medical Director, Dr. Edward Fishkin. “One of the big reasons [for mentally ill patients dying up to 20 years earlier than average] is communication…This truly is patient focused care…to make sure that a patient that’s got a medical condition and a mental health condition gets what they need to recapture those 20 years. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t have the same 20 years of healthy life as everyone else.”
Borough President Marty Markowitz allotted Woodhull $250,000, which paid to renovate the space and buy medical equipment to outfit the practice. “The center will serve the neediest patients in an area of Brooklyn where top notch, affordable medical care is at a premium,” he said.
Woodhull patient Catherine Little credits the hospital’s staff for working together to save her life. Little suffers from bipolar disorder and manic depression and was homeless. “This is a success story – someone who has a mental illness and can still function at a capacity level,” she said. “This is a woman that’s now standing on her own and getting ready to write the memoir of her own life story, hoping it will be a best seller.”
The Center for Integrated Health will be open Monday to Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.