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Willow Brook Offers Care for Seniors With Depression and Mental Health Issues
By Lois Thomson

Maher Ayyash

The Willow Brook Geropsychiatric Unit at Ohio Valley General Hospital combines both inpatient psychiatric care with medical care to help patients. Dr. Maher Ayyash is medical director of the Unit, and he described the program by saying, "It's not like a stand-alone facility for psychiatry and medical supervision. It's an integrated program in a general hospital. We have a fine medical team, and also have a psychiatric consultation team in the hospital that provides evaluations, assessments and management for patients with psychiatric problems during the course of any medical treatment."

He emphasized that Willow Brook is not a personal care home. "We usually address acute patients. Say a patient is in the dementia unit or in another facility, and they develop psychosis or develop significant behavioral problems that are difficult to manage in the course of their cognitive problems or dementia. We admit those patients and address the acute condition, and then facilitate their condition to the next level of care."

Dr. Ayyash explained in more detail that some patients who go to the Unit may come through the emergency room or from the crisis teams in surrounding counties, with issues such as severe depression, severe anxiety, suicidal thoughts or psychotic symptoms. "Those kinds of problems require acute inpatient hospitalization, and we admit those patients, we evaluate them, we address their treatment in the form of a bio/psycho/social treatment plan that is specific for each inpatient as an individual." The Unit mainly handles people who are 55 years or older. After being admitted, the patients receive medical treatment, along with psychiatric treatment, and occupational and physical therapy, if needed, and Dr. Ayyash said that in addition to participation in the therapy groups, "we also have pet therapy. We have some very nice therapy dogs that come to the units every couple of days for persons who enjoy that. We also have some entertainment for them if they want, like Wii games – bowling on the TV and things like that."

Willow Brook opened in June 2011, and Dr. Ayyash said the idea initially came from the hospital itself and a health care agency called Telecare, which managed the Unit at the beginning. "They came in and said 'OK, here is the staff, we will assign a program director and a medical director, and we will need six nurses.' They coordinated that between the Unit itself and the hospital. I have been the director of the Unit since it started."

Prior to becoming the director, Dr. Ayyash was a professor of psychiatry and surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. "I came here because I think this is a good set-up for me because of the combination of the psychiatry and medical care. And I am board certified in both psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine.

For more information, call 412-777-6420 or visit www.ohiovalleyhospital.org.

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