Written by Margaret M. Burke
Charlotte Hungerford Hospital offers exceptional behavioral health services to meet the needs of the community, including programs for adults and children. In addition to partial hospitalization programs, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital offers intensive outpatient programs, group and individual therapy, and transition groups for patients leaving the hospital.
“One of the challenges in the field of psychiatry is having adequate access at all different levels from inpatient treatment beds to outpatient providers and therapists,” said Clifford Kye, DO, interim medical director of Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. It is a complex issue with roots dating back to how mental health care was structured as far back as the middle of the last century. At a high level, Dr. Kye explained that it comes down to more people needing services, a shortage of providers and limited community resources. “The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed,” he said. Adults without a prior history of mental health illness developed anxiety and depression during it and adolescents’ lives and routines were disrupted.
To address these access issues, the department employs six psychiatrists. Dr. Kye remains the inpatient attending along with four outpatient adult psychiatrists and one child psychiatrist at the Center for Youth and Families. The Center for Youth and Families also includes a new trauma coordinator and a therapy dog named Dani that offers support for our patients. There are also a number of APRNs and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) providing services within the department. The team treats patients of all ages with a variety of mental health illnesses. They offer a full spectrum of treatment levels from inpatient hospitalization to outpatient group or individual psychotherapy and everything in between. All use evidence-based models of treatment.
There is a 17-bed inpatient psychiatric unit along with a 15-bed acute behavioral health unit within the Emergency Department at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. There are robust outpatient psychiatric treatment programs with approximately 500 to 550 outpatient appointments each week.
Dr. Kye offered several examples of the types of services available to patients. They include:
- partial hospitalization programs, which meet five days a week for three to four hours a day;
- intensive outpatient programs, which meet three days a week for three hours each day;
- group therapy;
- individual therapy; and
- transition groups for patients leaving the hospital.
Patients are placed in programs according to their diagnoses, such as anxiety, depression, personality disorder or schizophrenia; the approach to therapy varies by diagnosis. There are also groups for patients with dual diagnoses such as depression and substance use disorder.
In addition, there are several programs focused on treatment for mental health and behavior disorders in children and adolescents. The Bridges Extended Day Program offers intensive group therapy for children 6 to 13 years of age with behavioral and emotional struggles in school, at home or in the community. The system offers a child advocacy center and outpatient mental health clinic for children. In addition, the new Adolescent IOP “Lifeline” is a short-term comprehensive group therapy program for teens, ages 13 to 18, who have experienced behavioral or emotional challenges at home, in school and in the community with a comprehensive afterschool treatment program that includes clinical and milieu therapies, behavioral management, and intensive family support.
The Child First program is an intensive home-based program that serves families with children prenatal to age 5 years. “The program focuses on the life of the family and works to link the family to community resources during the 6- to 12-month treatment intervention course. The goal is to ensure adequate services and referrals to benefit the child for the future,” he explained.
Charlotte Hungerford Hospital has grown substantially since Dr. Kye first moved to the area. “The biggest growth happened with the merger with Hartford HealthCare,” he said. “Even though we still retain the community hospital identity and the roots, we’re really part of a much larger system.”
Charlotte Hungerford Hospital is a member of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, which connects all the behavioral health departments within the Hartford HealthCare system and enables them to collaborate closely and coordinate services. This enables patients in northwest Connecticut to have access to services that are not locally available such as neuropsychiatric testing and interventional psychiatry available through the Institute of Living in Hartford. The network also includes Rushford at Middletown, known for their inpatient substance use detoxification and extensive outpatient rehabilitation services. Patients who are dealing with a mental health illness combined with a substance use disorder may benefit from access to these services.
Dr. Kye has lived in northwest Connecticut for the past 12 years. That’s even before he started medical school. He really liked the rural setting and enjoyed the natural beauty of the area. His connection to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital began during medical school when he was able to complete medical school internships and clinical rotations with doctors there. “It was the local community hospital when I moved here. I always envisioned working here and being a psychiatrist here,” he said.
Dr. Kye has always had an interest in the mind and human behavior. His undergraduate degree at the University of California in Riverside was in neuroscience. He originally thought he would go on to perform clinical research such as studying memory or behavior. But he became interested in psychiatry during his clinical rotations in medical school. “I wanted more of that human connection and discovered that the field of psychiatry was a better fit than neuroscience clinical research,” he explained.
Dr. Kye attended medical school at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. After completing his four-year psychiatry residency at Hartford HealthCare’s Institute of Living four years ago, he began working at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital as an attending physician on the inpatient psychiatric unit. He was promoted to associate medical director for inpatient services and on June 1, 2023, he became the interim medical director of the psychiatry department.
As the new interim medical director, Dr. Kye hopes to continue to expand access to serve more patients and to create even more comprehensive services across the full life span from child to geriatric patients. He also aims to provide a setting to foster student learners, including medical students and residents. In fact, Dr. Kye is very excited about plans for a new psychiatry residency program that will include Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. This is a first of its kind for the hospital. The residency will be four years in duration and accept four residents each year.
Candidate recruitment begins this fall with the first residency class beginning in fall 2024. Each resident will spend their first two years working at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., which will have an inpatient focus. Their last two years will be spent with Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s rural psychiatry program. This way residents will get experiences in both types of settings—a diverse urban setting and the medium-sized community hospital in a rural setting which requires close collaboration with local mental health agencies. “The hope and goal are to train our future generation psychiatrists to work and practice in the area to address some of the shortages that we’ve seen in the past several years,” Dr. Kye stated.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health issues, you may contact Charlotte Hungerford Hospital at 860-496-6350 for the adult outpatient Behavioral Health Center or 860-489-3391 for child adolescent services at Center for Youth. “From there,” Dr. Kye said, “we can have a discussion about setting up an assessment and determine which level of care might be the most appropriate.” All insurances are accepted, and all patients are welcomed regardless of their ability to pay.
Margaret M. Burke, Pharm.D., BCPPS, is a freelance medical writer with more than 25 years of clinical pharmacy experience, including board certification as a pediatric pharmacotherapy specialist. She lives in Manchester.