A new kind of care at BWMH

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 10, 2005

DEMOPOLIS – The doors to the inpatient Psychiatric unit at the Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital opened in the middle of September. The unit’s first patient was admitted September 21.

Two patients are currently admitted and according to the unit’s staff, the ball is just beginning to roll.

“This is just the start of our inpatient services,” Dr. Bruce Atkins, the unit’s medical director, said. “We have 10 beds for patients 65 years old and older.”

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The unit is part of the Tombigbee Geriatric Behavioral Health Program and caters to citizens who experience mental or behavioral problems related to mental disorders or Alzheimer’s, Atkins said.

“It’s an evaluation and treatment center,” Atkins said. “We do assessments for individual therapy and family and group therapy.”

According to Melissa King, program director, patients are referred to the unit by physicians, psychologists, social workers, family members or friends.

“Then we do an admissions screening and it’s free to the patient,” she said. “We go to them at their homes or wherever they are to make the assessment.”

King said all the beds, among other furniture and equipment in the unit, are new.

Atkins, who previously practiced in Tuscaloosa and worked with the Mental Health facilities in Demopolis up until two years ago, said the BWMH unit is “just as nice, if not nicer than, Tuscaloosa’s.”

Although the facility is currently not at full capacity, the staff is expecting to have all 10 beds full in about three months.

“We are technically serving three counties,” Atkins, fellow of the American Psychiatric Society and 2004-2005 APS president elect, said. “So once the word gets out, the spots will fill up.”

King said the referrals are beginning to come in and there have been three admissions in the past week.

“People just have to get past the stigma that you must be crazy if you come to us,” King said.

The program is designed to ensure the wellbeing of each patient while determining the cause or causes of the psychiatric problem through physical and mental evaluations.

“We are just trying to get them back to their highest level of functionality,” King said. “They wear their normal clothes and we encourage group activity so they don’t have televisions in their rooms.”

There is also an on-site washer and dryer, a cafeteria and a community room for games.

“It’s a specialized center,” Atkins said. “That’s what makes it nice.”