Guest Blog: The Psychiatry Outreach Program (POP)
*This piece is a re-print from the Spring Edition of the Journal of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association.
As part of PRMS’ ongoing commitment to behavioral health, we are pleased to feature Doctors Chasity Torrence, FAPA, and Dustyn Baker, co-founders of the Psychiatry Outreach Program (POP) in Jackson, Mississippi, as guest bloggers this month, reflecting on the impact POP is making in their community. The first article PRMS posted about POP was in 2018 and can be found here.
In 2016, Chasity Torrence MD, Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Chaz Richardson MD, a PGY-4 psychiatry resident, co-founded the Psychiatry Outreach Program (POP) in coordination with the medical students of the Jackson Free Clinic. At the time, the new initiative received buy-in from then medical students, Yolanda Ross and Dustyn Baker. The newly established free psychiatric clinic served its first patients July 23, 2016. During its first year, the program witnessed tripling demand for services provided at no charge to those without insurance or shelter complaining of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and psychosis among others. The mission of the POP has always been to serve the psychiatric needs of underserved, homeless, and uninsured patients while providing educational and clinical experiences to medical students under the supervision of attending physicians. During its first year, Dr. Richardson voiced his goal that, “We want to go to the patients, not make them all come to the clinic.” The National Coalition for the Homeless point out that, “Homelessness and healthcare are intimately interwoven.”
The initiative was initially inspired by Dr. Sheryl Fleisch, then assistant professor at Vanderbilt University and medical director of a psychiatry program she and her team started on the streets of Nashville following a grand rounds presentation at the medical center.
Five years later, countless patients have been served who would have had no access to psychiatric services without this initiative. The POP has blossomed into a booming collaboration with the Jackson Free Clinic whose legacy continues, led by now Dustyn Baker MD, a PGY-4 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Torrence who continues to volunteer her time states, “It is a true blessing to be part of this initiative, to reach out and provide services in our city, to this very special population of patients, who are so often forgotten in society. Making a difference can come as easily as simply lending a listening ear or assisting with medication affordability. There have been challenging days at the POP where our teams have learned to utilize existing resources, depend on each other, and lead by example. I am immensely proud that this initiative has continued under Dr. Baker’s leadership and guidance and am so excited for its sustained growth.”
Despite recent stresses of operating in a pandemic, the POP currently serves patients seeking mental healthcare two Saturdays per month at the Jackson Free Clinic location and through a telepsychiatry option.
In addition to telepsychiatry and increasing the number of Saturdays that POP meets, there have been developments of an EMR, in house pharmacy, and partnering with local homeless shelters that have increased the ability to provide care and do research. There is currently a goal to renovate part of the JFC to build rooms specifically for the POP, which would give more opportunities to serve patients. Fundraising for this endeavor will begin in the next few weeks to months.
Dr. Chasity Torrence, Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
Dr. Dustyn Baker, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
From left to right: Kelsey Morgan (MS2), Perry Morgan (Psych PGY2), Veronica Pritchard (Psych PGY3), Dr. Torrence, Dr. Baker, Reid Black (MS4), Kristen Roberts (MS3). ©Kelsey Morgan
Dr. Charles “Chaz” Richardson is now a practicing addiction psychiatrist and medical director at Pinegrove’s Next Step and Gratitude Residential Programs in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Dr. Chasity L. Torrence is now a practicing adult psychiatrist, core faculty, Service Chief, and Associate Program Director at Mississippi State Hospital and medical director of several geriatric psychiatry intensive outpatient programs of Rush Hospital Systems.
Dr. Dustyn Baker is now a PGY-4 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center with plans to remain on faculty as Assistant Professor following completion of his fellowship.
To support POP, please click on the GoFundMe link: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/jfc-psychiatric-services-expansion
To learn more about the superior psychiatry-specific insurance program and comprehensive services offered by PRMS, click here.