Ensuring that every patient has equal opportunity to achieve optimal mental health and wellbeing is the cornerstone of Alameda Health System’s (AHS) outpatient behavioral health services (OBHS) at the Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus (WCHHC) and Fairmont Rehabilitation and Wellness.

“The collective goal of our OBHS staff is to create a compassionate, equitable and culturally sensitive health care environment for our patients suffering with mental illness,” said Maurice Fried, PhD, program manager, psychiatry and behavioral health. “We meet our diverse patients where they are and  individualize their treatment plans for achieving their highest level possible of independent functioning.”

OBHS has developed an integrated continuum of care with programs tailored to meet the ongoing needs and goals of each patient and to reduce their risk of hospitalizations.

Patients are referred to OBHS programs from multiple agencies across the County including Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services (ACBHCS), John George Psychiatric Hospital and our four ambulatory wellness centers.

The scope of services provided at AHS include the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), Outpatient Behavioral Health Services Clinic Program (OBHSC) and the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).

An additional level of care called the Wellness Program was recently developed for patients completing the IOP and who need support to avoid going back to the hospital. It continues the process of patients learning skills to help them be successful and adds a socialization aspect where patients can connect with others in a day-treatment setting.

“Each patient comes to us with different psychiatric disabilities, anywhere from severe to moderate and mild mental illness. We provide a supportive and inclusive home where they can receive care,” said Dr. Fried.

Over the past 25 years, OBHS has cared for about 3,000 patients in the community who have been diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Approximately 200 patients are currently active in IOP day-treatment programs. In addition, patients who participate in IOP have a rehospitalization rate of below five percent.

Currently, the OBHS team cares for about 3,000 patients and approximately 200 actively participate in IOP day treatment programs. In addition, patients who participate in IOP have a re-hospitalization rate of below 5%.

Patient therapy takes place in group settings to minimize social isolation and to encourage patients to connect with each other and with multidisciplinary care teams comprised of medical and support staff. Dr. Fried shared that because AHS serves a multiracial and multicultural community, it’s critical to have staff that reflect the community we serve. “To have providers and staff who look like our patients, speak their languages and have similar cultural life experiences increases trust and improves the overall patient experience.”

One IOP patient who has been attending programs at Fairmont Rehabilitation and Wellness for many years attributes their health and well-being to the ongoing support of the staff.

“Attending Fairmont IOP has really helped me to rebuild my self-esteem as well as my own identity,” they said. “The staff is truly inclusive in making patients part of the treatment program and the psychiatrists are always willing to listen to what I have to say and how I feel before deciding what to do with my medication.”

The patient who also lives with cerebral palsy shared that they are making great strides in their mental health and wellness goals as well as their personal goal of entering the workforce.

“The things I like best about IOP are the various types of treatment programs it offers and the volunteer opportunities made possible within the treatment center community,” they said. “At IOP I have gained skills to become more effective with my peers and those skills bring the possibility of taking me back into the workplace.”

The patient shared that through their experience with the supportive staff of IOP, they have built the self-confidence needed for volunteer opportunities with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and PEERS, an organization based in Oakland that offers peer-led support groups, trainings and workshops for people with diverse mental health experiences.

“These opportunities are helping me to reach the goal I’ve had since I was a child to help other people,” they said. “Being in these programs has made it clear how much I want to give back to the community that has given me the confidence to live again.”

For more information about OBHS programs, visit AHS’s Outpatient Behavioral Health Services.