Healthier Together

Spring/Summer 2017 issue
Opening our minds

Opening our minds


Mental illness and addiction can damage careers, disrupt families and change lives. And they’re alarmingly common. About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — that’s almost 44 million people — experience mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

One in 12 adults is addicted to alcohol, the most commonly abused substance, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. And the U.S. is seeing rising abuse of prescription drugs and marijuana, which, after alcohol, are the most commonly abused substances.

But few adults seek treatment for mental illness or addiction, often because of the stigma attached to those conditions that doesn’t exist for other diseases. The result: Too many people won’t reach out for help until they’re in a crisis.

But there’s hope, and it’s close to home. By focusing on personalized, compassionate care, Novant Health UVA Health System behavioral health services aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders. We are here to help community members take the first step toward treatment before they reach that crisis level.

“Our goal is for all of our services to provide excellent care for our patients who are experiencing mental illness or addiction, said Karyn O’Brien, PsyD. “We also provide education to them and their families to help reduce the stigma and shame that can be associated with these conditions.”

Our behavioral health services consist of four main programs designed to meet the differing needs of patients:

  • Inpatient program for adults
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP) for addiction recovery for adults
  • Behavioral access teams supporting emergency services and crisis care evaluations
  • Services provided through Novant Health UVA Health System Northern Virginia Psychiatric Associates, a medical group that supports medication management, psychological testing and individual and group counseling

The inpatient program is for individuals 18 years or older who are experiencing acute and unstable mental illness symptoms and need a high level of care.

The intensive outpatient program allows patients working on their recovery from addiction to receive nine hours of care a week, without a hospital stay. This helps avoid disruptions in the patient’s life and keeps people at home with their families while they are receiving treatment, said Dr. O’Brien.

Behavioral access teams meet patients who come to emergency rooms at Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center and Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center who are experiencing a crisis or psychiatric emergency. Experienced clinical therapists evaluate those patients, determine what kind of treatment they need and connect them to the right resources.

Northern Virginia Psychiatric Associates is another outpatient option that provides personalized care for patients of all ages with mental illnesses, including assessment, psycholological testing and therapy for children, adolescents and adults.

All services are supported with a multidisciplinary team — psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, nurses, social workers and other staff — to support each patient’s individual needs. Resources and therapy are also available for family members.

“We want to offer services that are both proactive and preventive,” said Dr. O’Brien. “Engaging with the community and providing an avenue that supports talking about mental illness and addiction are needed to help shine the light on the mental illness and addiction, as well as the power of recovery. Everyone has the ability to recover with the help of education, referral resources and professionals.

“This is why our upcoming Open Minds program addressing mental health and addiction is so exciting,” said Dr. O’Brien. “Because being able to talk to our community members about mental illness and addiction without the stereotypes, stigma and shame allows individuals and families to experience hope while concentrating on the ability to recover and be well.”

Open Minds event page
Register for the forum and submit questions