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Walker Strong Minds

Walker Baptist works to create a sound mind and body with comprehensive psychiatric programs

William Shakespeare wrote, "Tis the mind that makes the body rich." Thomas Jefferson countered by saying, "If the body be feeble, the mind will not be strong."

The fact is, both are correct. Overall good health requires a strong body and a sound mind, which is precisely the type of comprehensive care offered through the psychiatric programs at Walker Baptist Medical Center.

Walker Baptist takes a three-pronged approach to psychiatric care: the Behavioral Medicine Unit (BMU) offers a wide range of in-house treatments for patients age 19 to 64; the Senior Care Unit provides help for older patients who might have physical issues in addition to mental ones; and the Geriatric Outpatient Program is dedicated to reducing the emotional pain and mental stress seniors deal with in their everyday lives.

"We have a very comprehensive psychiatric behavioral medicine program, which most facilities of our size do not have," Walker Baptist Administrator Bob Phillips said. "We have good partnerships between psychiatrists and medical specialists - it is a well-rounded way of taking care of those patients."

The impact of these psychiatric programs is felt well beyond the borders of Walker County. Many of its psychiatric referrals come from nearby Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center.

Dr. Syed Aftab is the psychiatric director of Walker BMU, said the 24-bed facility works with patients who require acute treatment for such severe mental issues as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and suicidal depression.

"This isn't long-term care. We help patients become stable and return their home environment," Dr. Aftab said. "The length of stay on our unit is usually six to 10 days. But we continuously try to coordinate care with other mental health centers, so when patients are discharged from our unit, there are options for continuity of care."

The Senior Care Unit specializes in both the mental and physical issues facing elderly patients. Dr. Terry Bentley is the unit's psychiatrist who serves as the medical director and partners with internal medicine specialist Dr. Michael Brasfield.

"Mental health is vital for overall well-being. At the Senior Care Unit, we are able to treat elderly patients with severe mental illnesses ranging from major depression to dementia of various types," Dr. Bentley said.

"Many times the physical issues are made worse by the patient's mental challenges. The Senior Care Unit allows us to offer a good, comprehensive approach. It is important for our elderly patients to have access to both types of treatments," said Dr. Brasfield.

"It is very beneficial to have the assistance of Dr. Brasfield to help manage the overall physical health of these patients," said Dr. Bentley. "As a result, we are often able to admit patients to the Senior Care Unit that other geriatric programs would not be able to manage."

Dr. Bentley also oversees Walker Baptist's Geriatric Outpatient Program. This program is designed to help people who do not have a severe mental illness but are dealing emotionally with issues related to growing older. These issues include such things as memory loss, the death of a spouse, diminished physical ability, loneliness and a growing lack of independence.

While these three programs at Walker Baptist have some distinct differences in the type of care provided, they share a common goal.

"We are all working as a part of Walker Baptist and Baptist Health System to provide optimum care to people who suffer from mental illness," Dr. Aftab said. "We try to use the best treatment available to help our patients get 'back on their feet' as soon as possible."

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