A proud staff unites
New programs, initiatives heighten care at Buffalo PC
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Vincent Cicatello still remembers the day when a man in his early 20’s was admitted to Buffalo Psychiatric Center (BPC). The man was transferred from a psychiatric emergency room at an area hospital. He was decompensating, extremely paranoid and non-trusting. To say his behavior was out-of-control, would be an understatement.
Cicatello, a community mental health nurse and PEF council leader at BPC, said this patient was abused as a child and later abandoned by his family.
“It took a long time for him to get comfortable with people, maybe more than six months. Then he started to gain trust, took his medications and began communicating. By the time he was released from the residence, he was a totally different person. Not only did the staff take credit, but he also had to dig deep to help himself turn a new leaf as well,” Cicatello said.
“To this day, he is still doing well and involved in outpatient care. He is just one example of how we can turn a person’s life around and fulfill our mission, which is hope and recovery.”
Cicatello and the 255 PEF members who devote their careers to caring for those with mental illness have seen hundreds of people who suffer from a myriad of illnesses such as addiction, anxiety, bipolar or personality disorders, schizophrenia and self injury. The rewarding part of their jobs is when patients who are down on their luck or sworn off by society get a second chance and are able to live a life as close to normalcy as possible.
“Some people become extremely successful after being treated at BPC and are back with their families, or living on their own and being a part of the workforce,” Cicatello said. “We believe everyone who comes here will have a chance at success. While there are varying degrees of success, we always shoot for the top and give our best effort to help improve their lives.”
One patient who was discharged said, “I was sick as a child, very withdrawn and depressed. The family I came from was very dysfunctional. I started to see a psychiatrist when I was 22. I lost two sons by suicide when they were in their mid-twenties. I had to change and develop a new me. Today, I am in reality. I am sane and have lots of friends. Now I love myself and others. It is a miracle!”
Change benefits patients
During the last decade, there also have been changes in some of the treatment methods used for psychiatric patients, which have been embraced by BPC staff as they benefit the patients. For example, several of the programs have been revamped and are more intensive to better prepare patients for discharge and to deal with their illness.
In the past, patients would remain on the unit for much of the therapy. Now they are allowed to leave their unit, go to a recreation area or treatment center for more appropriate therapy, rather than being in an isolated inpatient setting.
“They can go to a courtyard, or a rehab building on site. Some patients who have privileges are escorted there, or depending on their privilege level, they can go on their own. The majority are escorted. They have a swimming pool, bowling alley and basketball court. They are offered classes in Zumba, art therapy, music and educational services. Compared to what it used to be, the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) is offering a lot of services,” Cicatello said. “Even weekend and evening shifts have programs going on until 8:30 p.m. There are more hours dedicated to their rehabilitation.”
Some people never reach a level of transitioning back into family or community life. As they age and require more medical assistance, OMH has addressed this issue.
Cicatello said BPC launched a new program where he is the primary therapist and liaison to skilled nursing homes. The program at BPC began in March and is taking hold. It involves a lot more than discharging a psychiatric patient to a nursing home.
“We follow up with each patient and provide enhanced support. Besides calling and visiting the patients, we visit with the nursing home staff to let them know you won’t be on your own. We offer more in-services, so the nursing staff can understand schizophrenia issues, either by doing a PowerPoint presentation or a lunch and learn event. We want to help ensure that when patients are discharged from BPC, all their needs are being met.”
Cicatello said the BPC staff members are very proud of the work they do.
“We love our facility and the people in our care. Recently, an elected local representative said negative things about our facility to further a cause of a nearby psychiatric center. His comments actually banded people together, and increased our sense of pride. Sometimes it takes a negative situation to put a fire under us. Now we are a cohesive group, proud to be New York state employees and PEF members.