Rotary Club hears from adult psych director

Rosanne Massee speaks to the Demopolis Rotary Club on Wednesday. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Almost everyone knows a friend or family member who suffers from some form of mental illness, Rosanne Massee told members of the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday.

In fact, she said, one in five adults in America has or will have some form of mental illness. When it comes to serious mental illness, nearly 10 million Americans, or one in 25, experiences it.

Massee, who holds numerous degrees in nursing and behavioral health, manages the newly opened Adult Psychiatric facility at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

Mental illness requires treatment when it affects daily life and relationships, Massee said. The mental health programs offered by the hospital try to address those issues in order to affect recovery in the least restrictive situation.

The services at the hospital are for those 18 years of age and older. When referred, patients are evaluated by the behavioral health staff and one of the three psychiatrists on board. The client can take part in intensive outpatient services, a structured program held four hours each day. If more care is needed, patients are moved to the Partial Hospitalization Program with an interdisciplinary team overseeing their progress.

Only in the most severe cases are patients admitted to the new 10-bed inpatient unit at the hospital. Often admission is made in an emergency situation, such as attempted suicide, homicidal behavior or delusions that warrant further inpatient treatment, Massee said.

Patients usually stay between three days up to several weeks. Some are admitted voluntarily, but in other cases commitment hearings before the probate judge are held in the hospital.

Massee said the hospital admitted its first patient to the new unit in early February. It has taken a maximum of five patients as the staff gets used to the facility, and the unit will be fully opened April 12. “We’re getting better every day,” she said. “I find this an exciting time.”

The hospital only began plans to convert a section of the second floor for the Adult Psychiatric unit after an intensive needs assessment, and it had to meet rigorous standards before opening.

The semi-private rooms “are not aesthetically pleasing,” said Massee, but they are safe for both patients and staff.

The unit includes a communal room for eating and therapy sessions and a seclusion room, which, she said, the staff has “not had to use since the unit opened.”

She sees the unit as a way to give hope to those suffering from mental illness and “a chance for a good outcome.”

The hospital’s secure second floor also houses the Geriatric Psychology unit and a medical detox unit, both of which also hold 10 beds.