Psychiatry and Behavioral Health
Sitting at the intersection of a number of fields, we bring scientists, clinicians, patients, families, and the public together to improve the well-being and mental health of people throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Our treatment team is comprised of psychiatrists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, therapists, and psychiatry and psychology trainees.
- Services provided through Penn State Health and the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute include services for adults, adolescents and children who suffer from a variety of mental and behavioral health issues.
- Specialized treatment programs for mood, eating, sleep, autism spectrum, attention deficit hyperactivity, conduct, adolescents, addiction and substance use and psychotic disorders
- Specialized treatment settings include inpatient, outpatient, and partial (day) hospital programs
- Specialized treatment modalities including neuromodulation services.
Erika F.H. Saunders, MD
Psychiatry is a dynamic, exciting field, which is changing rapidly today. At Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, we provide innovative care for patients, educate the healthcare providers and academicians of the future, and produce and disseminate new knowledge in our research programs.
The explosion of knowledge about the brain and behavior that has characterized the past century is leading to understanding the connections that will lead to improved care: links between the genome, the cell, cellular networks, and clinical symptoms. Sitting at the intersection of a number of fields, psychiatry brings scientists, clinicians, patients, families and the public together to improve the well-being and mental health of people.
Penn State Psychiatry and Behavioral Health provides a full range of clinical services in Hershey through the Hershey Medical Center and the University Physician Group; and in Harrisburg, through the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (PPI), a joint venture between the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Pinnacle Health.
Penn State Psychiatry and Behavioral Health embodies our field and its future. As we pursue our missions to expand and transmit knowledge, we strive to improve lives. We welcome your interest in Penn State Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.
Erika F.H. Saunders, MD
Chair, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health
Training program connects scholars for research collaboration
Andrea Hobkirk, assistant professor of psychiatry and public health sciences, and Steven Hicks, assistant professor of pediatrics, are studying the problem of relapse after addiction treatment, in collaborative research that could lead to an inexpensive and non-invasive method to measure brain responses to addiction treatment. Read the full story in Penn State News
A new community initiative aids in patient care
Dr. Elisabeth Kunkel, Professor of Psychiatry and Chief Medical Officer of Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute has spearheaded a community initiative to simultaneously combat the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the community and enhance the treatment atmosphere of the adolescent inpatient wing. Her initiative involves a dynamic collaboration with the Pennsylvania Foundation for the Arts and the Lower Dauphin School District. Read more about this community initiative.
Dr. Kawasaki’s efforts on fighting opioid stigma
As the head of an opioid treatment clinic located in the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, Dr. Sarah Kawasaki is spearheading efforts to introduce medication assistant treatment (MAT) in the community. This evidence-based treatment uses FDA approved medications to treat opioid use disorders and is the forefront of our nationwide approaches to stem the opioid epidemic. Read more about the clinic and Dr. Kawasaki’s efforts.
Psychiatry faculty part of cross-campus research efforts to tackle the opioid crisis
Scott C. Bunce, PhD and Sarah S. Kawasaki, MD are part of two cross-campus research collaborations that have received seed grants from Penn State’s collaborative research initiative between the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) and Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). The seed grants initiative was instituted to identify novel, translational research that focus on finding solutions to the current opioid crisis.
Dr. Bunce, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, is a collaborator in a College of Health and Human Development project entitled “Neural mediators and moderators of mindful yoga practice in opiate-dependent individuals”. This project aims to understand the underlying mechanisms of patient response to mindfulness based interventions (MBIs). The study will provide preliminary data identifying regions of the brain that are involved in mindfulness practices in opioid use disorder (OUD). In doing so, the project will constitute a critical first step in a line of enquiry designed to promote the refinement of OUD treatment approaches.
Dr. Kawasaki, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Addiction Services at Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, is a collaborator on a Center for Childhood Obesity Research project titled, “Perinatal Opioid Use and Maternal Nutrition and Health Status". The overall goal of this proposal is to use existing, publicly available data from the National Children’s Study (NCS) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to describe the nutritional status of women of childbearing age who are exposed to illicit or prescription opioids. Findings from this study will help to evaluate the role of nutrition in minimizing the effects of prenatal opioid exposure on maternal and infant health outcomes.
Kawasaki speaks about the toll of the opioid epidemic
"Opioid addiction, I dare say, is the polio of our time." Sarah Kawasaki, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Addiction Services at Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, was a panelist at the 2018 Healthcare Symposium hosted by the Central Penn Business Journal. A major topic at the symposium was the cause and effect of the current opioid crisis, and Dr. Kawasaki highlighted the devastating effects of the epidemic. With the number of people diagnosed with opioid use disorder rising, panelists discussed limiting opioid prescriptions and listed alternative methods to treating pain.
View details of Dr. Kawasaki's speech and the meeting – Central Penn Business Journal
Dalke appointed LGBTQ Affairs Commissioner
Katharine Dalke, MD, MBE, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and attending psychiatrist at Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, was appointed as a commissioner of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. This is the first ever commission on LGBTQ Affairs established by Governor Tom Wolfe and was created to ensure that members of the LGBTQ community will not be discriminated against based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Learn more about the LGBTQ Affairs Commission – Governor Tom Wolf
Suicide rates on the rise
The suicide rate has risen in nearly every state over the past 20 years, with half the states, including Pennsylvania, seeing increases of 30 percent or more. That means about 123 people per day are dying of suicide in the United States, notes Dr. Ahmad Hameed, a psychiatrist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center who has studied suicide.