UCHealth launches clinic to help patients with severe mental health conditions who have not had success with traditional treatments

Procedure adjusts brain electricity to healthy patterns with goal of getting patient into remission.
October 23rd, 2020
Photo of exterior of UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital's front entrance where ECT for depression is now being offered..
A specialty clinic in Longmont now provides ECT, which is a treatment for patients with severe depression or bipolar disorder that have not responded to traditional medication or psychotherapy. Photo courtesy of The Unfound Door.

UCHealth has launched a specialty clinic in Longmont that will help patients with severe mental illnesses, many of whom have gone through years of treatment and have not seen improvement.

Led by psychiatrist Dr. Konoy Mandal, the UCHealth Refractory Depression Clinic team started caring for patients at Longs Peak Hospital this month. It is the latest development of UCHealth’s commitment to improving access to behavioral health services.

photo of doctor who is now providing ECT for depression and other mental health illnesses in Longmont clinic.
Dr. Konoy Mandal

“Over the past year, we’ve expanded our offering of much-needed behavioral health services in primary care clinics across the state,” said Elicia Bunch, vice president of behavioral health for UCHealth. “This new clinic in Longmont is going to take it a step further by specifically helping people whose conditions have been especially difficult to treat. The goal will be to get them into remission.”

The new clinic will be offering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which is a treatment for patients with severe depression or bipolar disorder that have not responded to traditional medication or psychotherapy. This is the first location within UCHealth to offer this procedure where small electric currents are passed through the brain while the patient is under general anesthesia. In much the same way as electric currents to the heart can restore a normal rhythm to patients with an irregular heartbeat, ECT restores the patient’s brain “beat” to a healthy pattern, reversing symptoms of certain mental health conditions.

ECT can provide rapid, significant improvement for patients with severe major depression, highly suicidal patients, treatment-resistant mood disorders and psychosis, severe mania, catatonia, and agitation or aggression associated with dementia. It is also a possible answer for patients who need a rapid response to their condition, elderly patients who can’t tolerate drug side effects, pregnant patients when medications might harm the developing fetus or patients with chronic intractable pain. For many people, it can offer hope when their situation feels almost hopeless.

“This is one of the most evidence-based interventions in psychiatric medicine to get a patient into remission. Remission is not only feeling better. It is being indistinguishable from someone who does not have an illness,” Mandal said. “It is not a cure, but total control of the illness. No other treatment in psychiatry has better data to return a person to their pre-illness functioning.”

There are many myths and misconceptions about ECT, based on early treatments that were administered without anesthesia, and negative depictions in film, print and online media.

But today’s ECT is safe and much improved — and is considered the gold standard in treating these patients with treatment-resistant conditions.

“Modern day ECT is very different from ECT in the past. One has to remember ECT was initially developed when electricity was not able to be managed as it is now,” Mandal said. “Now, we can mimic the way neurons communicate between themselves and know where to aim, thanks to PET and Functional MRI scans. And today’s ECT also has 1% of the side-effects of ECT even 10 years ago.”

Mandal recently joined UCHealth with 20 years of experience. He is certified by the International Society for ECT and neurostimulation and has performed more than 25,000 ECT treatments. In addition to moving brain electricity to healthy patterns, he provides his patients with psychotherapy services, an individualized exercise plan and medication management.

Patients who are interested in seeing if they are eligible for ECT or other services offered through the UCHealth Refractory Depression Clinic should get a referral from their primary care provider or behavioral health specialist or call 702.718.8310.

For more information about the clinic, go to bit.ly/UCHealthRefractoryDepressionClinic.

About the author

Kelly Tracer is a media relations specialist at UCHealth, based in northern Colorado. For nearly 20 years, she worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and designer before diving into the world of health care communications.

She believes there is an amazing story inside everyone and considers it an honor to get to meet and work with so many extraordinary people – patients, families, providers, volunteers and staff – every day. She is also fascinated by health care innovation and programs that empower and inspire people and families to live healthier lives.

A native of Nebraska, Kelly received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She and her husband have two children and enjoy paddle boarding all summer and skiing all winter.