The Sag Harbor Express
Posted on 10 April 2015
By Mara Certic
Jeffrey Steigman, Psy.D., is the chief administrative officer of the Family Service League. He spoke about the South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative and the 12th annual East End Mental Health Awareness Day this Saturday.
In the past few years, what changes have you seen in mental health care on the East End?
Without being dramatic, based on years of inadequate access to behavioral health care and services out East — particularly on the South Fork — it really culminated in a crisis based on completed suicides and situations that really brought together stakeholders in an unprecedented way to address the growing need, as well as the crisis, and to figure out how everyone can work together so the needs are met. Over the past few years I really have seen a remarkable change in terms of being able to not only address crises in the South Fork Initiative – which is really geared to school-age children in South Fork districts – but to be able to provide more behavioral health services in terms of family services, where I can proudly say that our East Hampton clinic, for the first time in many years, does not have the waiting list that it used to have.
What does that mean for the East End clinic?
We’ve been able to take referrals from the town, and part of that is based on this initiative and based on the growing need and us trying to do whatever we could to meet that need. We actually outgrew our space and just moved in a couple of months ago to our new space, the old county health center, which provided us with about one-and-a-half-times the space. That translated to us hiring more people and having a greater capacity.
What are some of the available services on the East End that people might not be aware of?
There are children’s case management programs, there’s a community treatment team for teens, there’s also a child mobile clinic that serves the East End. That’s like a clinic without walls, where if someone has failed out of traditional treatment, there are two social work staff members and a nurse practitioner who can provide short-term services until the patient can link to more continual treatment. There’s a continuum of services that are available in addition to the clinic proper.
What are some of the things the South Fork Behavioral Health Initiative will provide?
The first phase of this was absolutely geared towards providing crisis intervention from a clinical standpoint on demand, so to speak, and to defer the use of the psychiatric emergency room where possible. That has absolutely achieved its goal and people are getting their needs met in a more efficient manner. We also have implemented a community healthcare collaborative with the Springs School, which will provide resources to students and parents. In the future, in phase two, we would like to scale such collaboratives and use other schools as feeders to such programs. But trying to attract and having access to child and adolescent psychiatry is still a great need, just based on geography. We may expand our use of telepsychiatry, so a practitioner would be able to remotely provide services to the clients, and we would have that resource on site.
What are you looking forward to during this Saturday’s event?
First of all, it’ll be a pleasure to talk about because in many ways it’s very exciting, not only what we’ve accomplished and the fact that it’s been such a collaboration with so many stakeholders and that we’ve seen actual results and outcomes that have been a long time coming. But I think it’s also exciting just looking ahead at the transformation that’s occurring in the larger system, and it really involves so many providers and has the potential to make a great impact in our region, being able to improve the quality of services and doing so in a way that increases patient satisfaction and also lowers cost.
The 12th Annual East End Mental Health Awareness Day “Changing Times, Changing Minds,” will take place on Saturday, April 11 at the Southampton High School, 141 Narrow Lane. Registration begins at 9 a.m., and it is a free event.