Blazing the trail: RCMC expands to include med-psych unit

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


LEBANON, Va. – In response to an outstanding need in Southwest Virginia, Russell County Medical Center has expanded to include a medical psychiatric service. This fully functional medical/surgical unit enables RCMC staff to care for people suffering from medical illness and mental health disorders at the same time. 

The med-psych unit is for adult patients and is staffed by board-certified physicians, psychiatrists and specially trained nurse practitioners.

“We wanted a way to combine great medical care and psychiatric care – to treat both issues at once,” said John Hagy, PhD, the program director. “The more we can treat all of a patient’s issues at one time, in a more holistic fashion, the better. If a patient has medical issues that need to be dealt with and then once they’re stabilized they are transferred to a psychiatric unit sometimes that can feel like they’re starting over. Having them treated in a med-psych unit feels more like a continuation of treatment for them.”

The patients are under a hospitalist’s care but can receive a psychiatric consultation with psych-med management as needed. Nursing personnel are competent in both medical/surgical and psychiatric care.

“We’ve heard from local community services boards, mental health agencies, ERs and other health care professionals that this is a gap in services in Southwest Virginia,” said Jill Smeltzer, social work supervisor. “So this is an important service to offer. I don’t think there’s another one like it anywhere in the region. We have a geropsych unit at Dickenson Community Hospital geared toward seniors but not an adult medical psych unit.”

“In a lot of ways we’re on the cutting edge,” Hagy added. “This has been done in some bigger, urban areas in other states over the last few years but not in a rural setting.”

To provide continuity of care, patients at the RCMC unit who require intensive inpatient psychiatric treatment (and are medically stable) can be transferred to Clearview Behavioral Health Center in Lebanon. Otherwise, the patient may be discharged home for outpatient care.

Admission to the unit is not appropriate for those requiring detox-only services.

For more information, call 276-883-8380 or visit Russell County Medical Center

Article created by Mountain States Health Alliance. For more news visit The Mountain Star