Treating cerebral palsy is more than just caring for patients’ physical wellbeing – it’s their mental healthcare too. Jan Moskowitz, LCSW, and Sabrina Miranda, LCSW comprise the social work team at the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center and are at the forefront of treating patients’ mental health needs through numerous approaches.
The State of Mental Healthcare for Patients with CP
Throughout the United States, it’s difficult to find lifelong care for patients with CP. What makes it especially challenging is the lack of understanding in the healthcare community about treating
“Many healthcare providers just presume that they must be depressed because of their disability, but they never ask if it’s childhood trauma or if there are other factors involved,” said Jan. “People with disabilities could have anxiety, depression, or no mental disorders at all.”
The challenge of finding the right mental health professional can be further complicated by the deluge of healthcare appointments that patients with CP need to make as well.
“Going to a therapy appointment can be a lot on top of everything else and the issue of access to mental health care is a problem nationally,” said Sabrina.
Sabrina and Jan’s Roles in Mental Healthcare
Sabrina focuses on care coordination and sees patients with Dr. David Roye. After visiting a patient, she creates a psychosocial assessment of the patient and, from there, assists them in navigating the healthcare system to get the appointments with the specialists the patient needs.
“I’m the point person for patients, whether it’s connecting them to other providers, coordinating appointments, or reaching out to services they need outside the CP Center such as Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for kids or physical therapy for adults,” said Sabrina.
Jan provides individual psychotherapy sessions with patients of all-ages and caregivers. She also teams up with members of the clinical team to discuss depression and CP and connects people who live out-of-state or are a long distance away from the CP Center with local mental health providers.
“Even if they cannot make it to the CP Center, it’s important to establish these meaningful connections with mental health providers and maintain these connections through their treatment,” said Jan.
The Support Groups
Together, they co-facilitate monthly support groups for young adults (YA) with CP and caregivers. Even though there have only been several sessions so far, the YA support groups, consisting of mostly people with CP in their 20s and 30s,
“The patients feel comfortable that they’re in a safe space and can come to be themselves,” said Sabrina.
The needs of the caregiver support groups are a bit different since it’s more of a spectrum. Caregivers could range from caring for an 8-year-old or a 30-year-old but they usually come with the same burden of managing their stressful lives.
“Support for caregivers tends to be twofold – we’re helping to support them as caregiver/parents and encouraging them to support themselves as well,” said Jan.
In the coming months, the social work team will expand their services to the Westchester and Englewood, NJ locations via telehealth. Westchester will be a site of a soon-to-be-announced support group and both locations will be able to utilize telehealth which will be coming in the spring, allowing for easier access to mental health care for many patients with CP.
“We strive to be an integrated piece in the medical puzzle,” said Jan. “We’re part of the care team and even if you haven’t been to therapy yet, we’re here to answer questions and connect you with the health care and support you need.”