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Ohio County Healthcare has been in the process of developing a new behavioral healthcare program for the past six months, with the assistance of Dr. Susan Matthews, psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner.

OCH purchased Matthews’ private practice, Bright Futures Behavioral Health, late last year. It has been renamed OCH Behavioral Health.

Matthews started the practice in 2018. Prior to that, she worked as a primary care nurse practitioner for about 20 years in Ohio County, where she was born and raised.

During her time in primary care, she recognized a significant need for mental health care services in the community.

Many patients that she referred to other mental healthcare facilities would either be on a several month-long waiting list or did not typically work with children or adults or certain insurance carriers.

In 2016, she decided to go back to school to receive her certification as a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

“Mental health treatment in our country is so lacking,” she said. “People can’t get it; they can’t get the medicines they need, and I just want to see people do well.”

Mental healthcare services have come more mainstream as the need for them has increased.

Matthews approached OCH about purchasing her practice last year, and the healthcare system was enthusiastic about expanding healthcare services for the community, with Matthews at the helm of the program, according to Cece Robinson, director of community relations.

“Ohio County Healthcare has identified a need to increase access to behavioral health and mental health services,” Robinson said. “We were thrilled for the opportunity to bring Dr. Matthews and her practice into the Ohio County Healthcare family, because our goal is to continue to expand that much-needed service for the community.”

Robinson said OCH has identified an increasing need for mental healthcare services each year as it performs community needs assessments and works through strategic planning.

Now that OCH has started a program geared towards addressing those needs, she said it is focused on figuring out how to expand access, especially with the world facing a mental healthcare crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the program continues growing, Matthews said she hopes to continue developing Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing therapy to assist with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and grief, as well as working with the courts to offer parenting classes, family stabilization and medication assistance treatment for substance use disorders.

“It’s very glaringly obvious that we need to be able to provide top-quality mental healthcare services here on a local level, and Dr. Matthews is the start of that for us, and we feel that she’s going to lead us in a direction where we can continue to expand those services,” Robinson said.

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