Battling Behavioral Health Issues | What Our Community is Doing

While often taboo to discuss, behavioral health is a prominent issue. It continually rises to the surface as more individuals openly share their struggles and the fight against suicide increases as a key issue supported by our community. Additionally, research from the 2016 community health assessment placed behavioral health services as a top priority.

At Altru, we’re committed to ensuring access to comprehensive behavioral health. We recently completed a project in our inpatient behavioral health unit that offers the safest environment to prevent self-harm while in our care. Special doors, plumbing, lighting, beds and beyond were put in place to confirm that Altru is in compliance with new standards set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and that we’re on the forefront of this national shift to creating safe environments for these patients. After several months of construction, all 23 beds in Altru’s inpatient psychiatry unit are now open. We’ve created an atmosphere of healing we’re very proud to offer.

Beyond the Environment of Care
In addition to addressing safety concerns, our inpatient care team works to keep our patients’ lives as normal life as possible. We’ve contracted with Grand Forks Public Schools to provide on-site teaching services so that adolescents and children don’t fall behind while in our care. Exercise programs and other non-traditional offerings are also available to help maintain positive outlets during a challenging time.

We also know that convenient access to see a provider is paramount in improving the incidence of elevated behavioral health issues in our community. As we’ve developed new programs, we are also glad to share that we’ve hired two new physicians to join our experienced psychiatric team: Chenelle Joseph, MD, and Anita Bansal, MD.

Dr. Joseph is both a psychiatry and internal medicine provider at Altru. She specializes in depressive and anxiety disorders, neurocognitive disorders and behavioral disturbances associated with metabolic encephalopathy or delirium. Her special practices and procedures include: supportive psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Dr. Joseph chose both internal medicine and psychiatry because her desire is to take care of patients in their entirety. She believes there is a link between physical and mental health and that the management of both is vital to optimum patient care.

Dr. Bansal specializes in treating patients with depression, anxiety and psychosis. She believes in a holistic approach to treating patients. She feels psychosocial and environmental factors are important to consider in addition to the psychiatric process. Dr. Bansal is the daughter of long-time Altru psychiatrist, Dr. Ashok Bansal.

Along with Dr. Ashok Bansal and Dr. Ellen Feldman, our psychiatry team can care for patients dealing with an array of behavioral health concerns, either in-person or through our robust telemedicine program, which allows patients in rural areas to receive specialized care via secure video connection at their local healthcare facility.

A Community-Wide Approach
While we continue our work to address mental health issues and provide services to help those facing these diseases, the community is also highly invested in this cause. This was proven at Altru’s Gala, which raised over $410,000 to support suicide prevention and education. This was the most raised at the Gala in its 13-year history.

McKenzie Kay Darling shared her personal experience with suicide and mental illness at Altru’s Gala. Learn more about her powerful story in this video provided by the University of North Dakota.

We’re thankful to share strong partnerships with other facilities and non-profit organizations in our communities. These partnerships help connect those in need with the proper care and treatment. We’re working hard together to break through cost barriers for care and provide lower income individuals with support to help them find the best treatment options.

We’re confident that our team and services will continue to expand and improve, and we’re proud to share the good work being done in the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks communities, as well as throughout our region, to increase access to care, raise awareness about mental health, prevent suicide and keep our community safe and healthy.

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