St. Luke's University Health Network


    • St. Luke's University Hospital - Bethlehem Opens New Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit

St. Luke's University Hospital - Bethlehem Opens New Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit

St. Luke’s University Hospital - Bethlehem Opens New Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit

New Unit is Unique in Approach to Treating Inpatient Mental Health Issues Among Elderly Population

St. Luke's Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit

Bethlehem, PA (1/17/13) - St. Luke's University Hospital – Bethlehem will open a brand new unit to serve the unique inpatient behavioral health needs of people aged 60 and over. The inpatient unit is slated to open in February, 2013 and will provide a secure and tranquil environment for older adults with long-standing or newly-diagnosed mental illnesses. The care will be provided by an interdisciplinary team comprised of a psychiatrist with special training with geriatric patients; nurses; mental health technicians; case managers and activity therapists.

“The older members of our community represent a key faction of society,” Carol Kuplen, RN, MSN, COO of St. Luke’s University Hospital – Bethlehem and Chief Nursing Officer, St. Luke’s University Health Network. “They are our veterans, our parents and our grandparents. They have made society what it is today. This specialized unit will focus on the greatest generation in America, allowing them to remain independent and productive.”

Depression, Anxiety and Suicide in Older Americans – APA Statistics

  • As many as 20% of older adults in the community and up to 37% in primary care settings suffer from depression. Approximately 11% of older adults have anxiety disorders. (Administration On Aging, 2001)
  • Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. In 2006, 14.22 of every 100,000 people age 65 and over died by suicide, higher than the rate of 11.16 per 100,000 in the general population, with white men age 85 and over the most likely to commit suicide. (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2006) Further in 2007 the National Center for Health Statistics reported that men 65 and older have a higher rate than any other age group and more than twice the national rate for all persons. (NCHS, 2007)
  • Some late life problems that can result in depression and anxiety include coping with physical health problems, the death of loved ones, relocation to a new living environment, caring for a spouse with dementia or other disabilities, and managing conflict with family members. (American Psychological Association APA, 2005)
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety in older Americans are often overlooked and untreated because they can coincide with other late life problems. (APA, 2005)
  • Psychologists use psychological interventions, including various psychotherapies and supportive counseling, to help other adults deal with mental health disorders and late life stressors. These interventions have been shown to be effective either alone or in combination with psychiatric medications. (APA, 2005)

St. Luke’s Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit

St. Luke's Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit

The unit will be comprised of 15 single occupancy rooms and will also provide areas for group, family visits as well as activity therapies.

“Our program's aim is to provide comprehensive, individualized treatment options to older adults with long-standing or newly diagnosed mental illnesses,” said Dr. Vikrant Mittal, MD, St. Luke’s University Health Network Associate Chief of Psychiatry. “Each treatment program is tailored to the patient’s unique needs, combining the medical and psychosocial aspects of treatment for the best individual outcome. Each patient is closely monitored, carefully assessed and provided with a supportive, structured environment 24-hours-a-day.”


Changes in behavior, mood or routine may be an indicator that a psychiatric condition is present. Symptoms may interfere with care at home or in a long-term setting. Some (but not all) of the symptoms that the staff at the unit will treat are:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

St. Luke’s Team Can Help

Making the decision to consider inpatient services might be challenging but also afford the family a team to evaluate each person’s situation, said Virginia Wagner, St. Luke’s University Health Network Administrator of Behavioral Health and Senior Care Services. “St. Luke’s University Health Network’s behavioral health experts are here to help our patients with the goal to have them return to their best possible level of health, improve their quality of life, and help them return to a stable outside environment,” she said.

“It is a great asset to the community to open a geriatric psychiatric unit and St. Luke’s has taken a bold step to undertake this high level program. The new unit will provide the optimal level of quality care individualized for each of our fragile patients over 60 who are experiencing emotional distresses. The design of the unit lends itself to a peaceful and safe home-like setting. The staff will provide support for the families who in turn will provide an improved family dynamic. This unit is the first step in the rehabilitation program that leads into extended and outpatient care that the patient may require and will be responsive to the needs of the community. This is just the beginning,” said Dr. Husain.


St. Luke’s Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit will offer a multitude of services, including but not limited to:

  • Psychiatric evaluation and treatment
  • Medical evaluation and management
  • Medication management
  • Recreation therapy
  • Physical and Occupational therapy
  • Patient and family education
  • Nutrition consultation and education
  • Neurology consultation
  • Pharmacy consultation
  • Medical and surgical subspecialty consultation
  • Neuropsychology consultation
  • Individual and Group Therapy
  • Discharge/Aftercare planning

Vikrant Mittal, MD
Vikrant Mittal, MD

Arif Husain, MD
Arif Husain, MD

Biographical Information on the Physicians

Vikrant Mittal, MD, recently joined St. Luke’s Medical Staff as Associate Chief of Psychiatry at St. Luke’s University Health Network. Dr. Mittal graduated from Bombay University, India. He also holds a Master in Health Science from John Hopkins University. He completed his Psychiatric residency at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center at Tufts University, Massachusetts and was the Chief Resident for Consultation Liaison at Yale University. He has held positions as Medical Director and staff psychiatrist at Lancaster Regional Medical Center and Medical Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at Parkland Health Center in Missouri.

Another new member of the St. Luke’s Psychiatric Associates, Arif Husain, MD, will head the Older Adult Behavioral Health Unit as well as provide outpatient services for this population. Dr. Husein is a geriatric-trained, board-certified psychiatrist.

Dr. Husain graduated from the Institute of Medical Sciences, Osmania Medical College, India. He completed his Psychiatric Residency at the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Kansas City, Missouri. He was a Geriatric Psychiatric Fellow at New York Medical College in New York City. Dr Husain was formerly the president of the medical staff at Wernersville State Hospital. Additionally he serves Gracedale and Pleasant Valley Manor as a Geriatric Psychiatrist/Consultant. In addition, he maintains a faculty position at DeSales University.

Contact Information

Denise E. Rader
Director, Network Media Relations
St. Luke's University Health Network

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