Partnership expands mental health care access

By Laura Gasque

With the growing need for psychiatric and mental health care resources, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing and Bibb Medical Center are expanding services to provide specialized care to patients across the lifespan. Two UABSON Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners are now available to see patients at the Centreville clinic.

Associate Professor and Interim Associate Dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships Michele Talley, PhD, CRNP, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN (BSN 1996, MSN 2005, PhD 2015), said the School has prioritized help for rural communities, where mental health resources are sometimes scarce.

“We are trying to replicate and broaden services to meet the needs of Alabamians and improve access to care,” Talley said. "We can’t be discouraged by barriers of care; Instead, we must press on to care for the most vulnerable of populations in our state.”

Bibb Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Joseph Marchant said there is a significant need for behavioral health care in the community. Before the clinic opened, patients had to travel to Birmingham or Tuscaloosa for those services. Marchant hopes the convenient access in a discreet setting will encourage patients to seek care.

“Integrating it into a traditional primary care setting was really our model. It was, how can we normalize this in a way that’s just health care? It’s not mental health, it’s just health care,” Marchant said. “If you pull up in the parking lot or if you’re sitting in a waiting room, no one’s the wiser of what you’re there for relative to your needs.”

UABSON Instructor Brenda Mayfield, MSN, CRNP, PMHNP-BC (MSN 2018), has seen patients at the clinic since November 2020.

“I have seen patients who were very, very sick who are very, very stable now,” Mayfield said of the impact of care. “Patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, I’ve seen some of those patients—they’ve gone back to work, they’ve gone back to school, they’re functioning well in the community. They’re not in the hospital, they’re not on the streets, and so we continue to try and build support systems around them.”

The recent addition of UABSON Instructor Simone Durand, MSN, MS, CRNP, PMHNP-BC (BSN 2011, MSN 2013), enabled the clinic to provide targeted care to patients across the lifespan three days a week.

“A lot of my work at Bibb involves helping families communicate better, support children more successfully, and navigate social stressors,” Durand said. “Anxiety, trauma, or substance use can affect anyone. We collectively have experience working with patients age 3 to 100.”

For the UABSON, the partnership provides educational opportunities for students as well faculty practices to support the education, research and service missions of the School.

“The faculty practices tie into the School’s mission of targeting vulnerable populations, providing services to this population and improving access to care,” Talley said. “Faculty practices equip sites with expert clinicians and educators who are committed to building the workforce to care for vulnerable populations through practicum experiences. Psych/mental health nurse practitioner students are gaining valuable experiences with our faculty who are practicing in these areas and our Doctor of Nursing Practice students are also joining faculty in these sites to conduct quality improvement projects.”

Marchant wants people in the Bibb County community to know that the resources are available locally.

“Anxiety and depression touch us all, all our families,” Marchant said. “Whether it’s grieving for the loss of a loved one or it’s a new diagnosis that a family receives, you just never know what the person you’re walking by or you’re encountering is really going through. I think what we want them to know is that this care is available and it’s convenient.”

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