Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) gave awards to two programs at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) of UPMC dedicated to helping children and youth.

Staff at the WPIC submitted two of the 12 winning applications selected from 121 entries from medical institutions all over the state. The organization won a Community Champions Award for its work in improving treatment for children and families who have experienced major trauma. It also won an Excellence in Care Award for a development that allows patients to gauge their moods in real time using wearable technology. Winners were chosen by a 15-judge panel, which blindly reviewed each application with no knowledge of the hospitals involved.

These recent wins make for a total of six Achievement Awards the organization has earned over the last five years.

“Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC’s winning initiatives showcased its forward-thinking and innovative efforts that produced successful interventions and meaningful results,” says HAP vice president of member services and business development Daneen Schroder, who oversees the Achievement Awards program. “The entries focused on such aspects as strong community partnerships and patient-focused programs—both inside the hospital and in the community—which are necessary as health care transforms and extends outside of the hospital walls.”

The Excellence in Care Award went to a team led by Dr. Rasim Somer Diler, an associate professor of psychiatry at Pitt and a director at the WPIC’s Child and Adolescent Bipolar Services. The program requires young patients suffering from mood disorders to wear a “durable wrist-worn actigraphy device” that enables them to rate how they’re feeling at any given moment. The results are saved on a web-based portal, where clinicians and family can keep track of the patient’s activity and intervene or change treatment when necessary.

The results of the program, which began in 2014, showed an overall improvement in 97.3 percent of the participating patients, as well as a better understanding among parents of their childrens’ conditions.

The Community Champions Award went to a program led by Kimberly Blair, an assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry and a director at the WPIC’s Early Childhood Mental Health and Trauma Treatment Center. Blair and her team used a four-year grant from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) to enhance services for children age eight and under. Blair explains that they decided to develop new approaches to care after noticing the lack of treatment options for young patients dealing with severe trauma such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment or witnessing the death of family members.

The program introduced a new trauma-focused treatment called Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP). CPP involves play-based activities which encourage the child and parent or caregiver to interact, all while under the supervision of a trained therapist.

Blair says that because children and parents typically experience the same trauma together, it’s more effective to treat them both as a unit rather than individually.

“Often times while the kids play, they will recreate what the traumas are and the therapist helps to try and guide that experience along and get the child and the parent to understand what’s going on with each other so they can move past what happened,” says Blair.

The program also uses Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), which is geared more toward the parents of preschool-aged children with behavioral disorders. Since it took effect, the team has seen a significant reduction in post-traumatic symptoms such as anxiety and depression in their young patients. Blair says they hope to give families better access to treatment by working with other agencies to expand trauma services into communities outside of Allegheny County.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...