New Funding from the Beckwith Institute: Clinical Interventions for Children and Adolescents Experiencing Psychiatric Disorders

For Department of Psychiatry clinical faculty and trainees, one of the most rewarding aspects of providing behavioral health care at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital (WPH) is the opportunity to develop innovative clinical interventions. Two projects, recently funded by The Beckwith Institute’s Frontline Innovation Program, aim to help young people experiencing psychiatric disorders.

Phone-based Intervention for Suicidal Transitional-Age Adults

For patients who have exhibited suicidal behavior, post-discharge follow-up phone calls have been shown to decrease the occurrence of subsequent suicide attempts among adults. A pilot project implemented at WPH found that telephone interventions for children and adolescents reduced the risk of suicidal behavior in a cohort of young people who received a series of telephone calls post discharge. 

The current project, led by postdoctoral fellow Manivel Rengasamy, MD, PGY3 psychiatry resident Jacque Esque, MD, and Priyanka Amin, MD, aims to examine the value, cost-effectiveness and scalability of phone-based intervention among adults between ages 18–24, a population experiencing an increased national suicide rate. The intervention entails six phone calls placed over 90 days post discharge, intended to review the patient’s safety plan, as well as their ability to access necessary medication and follow through on outpatient therapy. “We can provide excellent care for our patients while they’re here, but a program like this demonstrates our dedication to helping them succeed after hospitalization as well,” said Dr. Amin.

WPH Southside Mindfulness Garden Expansion Project

In 2017, Rameshwari Tumuluru, MD, received a grant from the Beckwith Institute to build a Mindfulness, Healing and Wellness Garden, where adolescents between the ages of 12–18, with various psychiatric conditions, can practice mindfulness. This therapeutic technique helps kids learn how to manage overwhelming thoughts and emotions by staying in the moment. 

The project’s newly funded second phase will allow Dr. Tumuluru and her colleagues at the Adolescent Acute Partial Hospitalization Program to expand the mindfulness practice to the families of the young people currently in treatment. The creation of a toolkit that teaches the practice of mindfulness to parents will expand their knowledge base and equip them to support their child’s recovery. “Fostering parental well-being will increase families’ ability to respond to and communicate with their children in a positive and nonjudgmental way,” explained Dr. Tumuluru. “In addition, educating parents about nutritional choices will provide a more holistic approach to care that focuses on the body as well as the mind.”