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New program at Upstate Medical University helps primary care doctors treat mental health issues

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse is starting a program to help primary care physicians diagnose and treat mental health issues in their patients.

Primary care physicians already are on the lookout for mental health issues and do offer treatment. But Upstate’s Dr. Seetha Ramanathan said this new program will be able to enhance treatment for mild to moderate issues.

"This is the next step. What about treatment for depression, suicide prevention, bipolar disorder, just taking it to the next level,” Ramanathan said. “Understanding what they are seeing more and where they need help.”

Ramanathan said a focus group of physicians found they’d like more information about medications, and how to handle someone who is suicidal.

“A number of primary care physicians did say ‘we do not know what to do when a patient says they’re suicidal',” she said. “The idea is to give them information so they can address it. I wouldn’t say they are scared, it just gives them more confidence to address the issue."

Ramanathan said this can make a more streamlined system of care between primary care and mental health systems, which can ease the bottleneck in care caused by a shortage of mental health professionals. The program, funded by a grant from a Buffalo foundation will run for two years.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.