KINGSTON, N.Y. (January 23, 2017) — HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley (HealthAlliance), a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), and the Institute for Family Health, a federally qualified health center, are working together on a federally sponsored pilot project to see if patient follow-up reduces Ulster County’s suicide rate.

HealthAlliance and the Institute’s Kingston Behavioral Health Center are pioneering efforts to provide structured follow-up support to patients who had suicidal thoughts before being discharged from the Psychiatric Emergency Department located at HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, in Kingston. The joint project is one of only two in New York to include structured follow-ups with patients who had suicidal thoughts before being discharged from psychiatric emergency rooms, the New York State Department of Health says. All other follow-up programs limit their support to people who had called suicide hotlines.

“This project is groundbreaking and very much needed here in Ulster County — and, frankly, everywhere — because suicide has devastating consequences for individuals, families, communities and society at large,” said Sharon Miller, Psychiatric Emergency Department Manager, HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, a licensed clinical social worker who coordinates the hospital’s participation in the project.

Under the project, an Institute-trained clinician provides risk assessments and other enhanced follow-up services by phone or in person within 48 hours of discharge from the HealthAlliance Psychiatric Emergency Department.

“The follow-up then continues, based on the patient’s needs,” said Kingston Behavioral Health Center Associate Director Margaret Stahlin, a licensed mental health counselor. “The services can include appointments at Institute health centers in Kingston, Ellenville and New Paltz and other assistance, such as transportation to appointments.”

“We also work with patients to improve their coping strategies, reduce conditions that increase the risk for suicide, including means of self-harm, and ultimately help them restore hope for a better life,” Stahlin said.

Longer-term services consist of psychological counseling, medications, family support programs and addiction treatment. HealthAlliance offers a comprehensive inpatient residential addiction-recovery program at its Mary’s Avenue Campus in Kingston and a complete range of outpatient addiction recovery management programs at satellite treatment centers in Kingston and Saugerties. All programs are led by HealthAlliance’s world-class experts in the field.

The HealthAlliance-Institute pilot project is important because many suicide deaths occur among people recently discharged from care, officials of both institutions said.

“Suicide prevention must be a core responsibility of healthcare systems,” said Institute Director of Suicide Prevention Sarah Bernes, a public health professional and licensed master’s-level social worker. “The structured follow-up services we’re providing in Ulster County are crucial and can be lifesaving.”

The three-year suicide-prevention collaboration between HealthAlliance and the Institute is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Researchers from Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry, another partner, are evaluating the success of the project as it progresses and is reporting results to SAMHSA.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide or is in an emotional crisis, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), is available 24 hours a day to connect individuals in need of help with local resources, including the HealthAlliance Psychiatric Emergency Department.

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About HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network
HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley operates a 315-hospital bed healthcare system comprising HealthAlliance Hospital: Mary’s Avenue Campus and HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus in Kingston, New York, and Margaretville Hospital in Margaretville, New York. It also operates Mountainside Residential Care Center, an 82-bed facility in Margaretville. As Ulster County’s largest employer, HealthAlliance is committed to attracting the best-qualified medical and support staff; providing outstanding, responsive, coordinated, compassionate patient- and family-centered care; excelling in clinical outcomes and patient experiences; and ensuring patient rights, privacy and respect are honored at all times, while improving the overall health and well-being of the diverse communities it serves. For more information about how HealthAlliance is delivering the promise of medicine, visit hahv.org or follow Facebook.com/HealthAllianceHV or Twitter.com/HAllianceHudVal.

About the Institute for Family Health
The Institute for Family Health is a federally qualified health center network that operates 27 community health centers in the Bronx, Manhattan and the Mid-Hudson Valley. Primary care, behavioral health care and dental services are available to people of all ages, regardless of ability to pay. For more information, visit institute.org.

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Suicide Facts

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second among Americans ages 10 to 34.
  • Nationally, some 43,000 people, or 13.4 out of every 100,000 people, died by suicide in 2014, the most recent year for which data are available. For every suicide, there are at least 25 attempts, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, based on the number of hospital visits for nonfatal injuries from self-harm.
  • In New York, some 1,700 people, or 8.6 people out of every 100,000 New Yorkers, took their own lives in 2014 — an increase of 32 percent in a decade.
  • In Ulster County, 9.5 out of 100,000 people died by suicide in 2014, New York State Department of Health records indicate. Ulster’s rate is comparable to those of the rest of the mid-Hudson Valley.
  • Only four states had more suicide deaths in 2014 than New York: California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas.
  • “The HealthAlliance-Institute program aligns with the state’s new ‘1,700 Too Many’ suicide-prevention plan,” said Institute Director of Suicide Prevention Sarah Bernes, a public health professional and licensed, master’s-level social worker.
  • The ‘1,700 Too Many’ plan, outlined in September at the state’s first conference on suicide prevention, has three core strategies:
    • Integrating suicide prevention into health and behavioral health settings
    • Coordinating community efforts to reach people before they have suicidal thoughts, and
    • Improving surveillance and use of data to prevent suicides.
  • “We’re on the forefront of that effort,” said Sharon Miller, Psychiatric Emergency Department Manager, HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus, a licensed clinical social worker. “And while we talk about data, the data are only part of the story. The other part is the distressed people who now find new hope.”

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