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Are CMHCs ready to embrace TMS therapy?

March 3, 2011
by Nick Zubko, Associate Editor
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NH facility introduces the state-of-the-art treatment for clients with major depression

In January, the Center for Life Management (CLM), a community mental health center in Derry, N.H., became the first standalone CMHC to offer a new treatment for clients suffering from major depression—a state-of-the art option that goes beyond traditional counseling and medication.

The treatment uses an advanced medical device developed and manufactured by Neuronetics, Inc. called the NeuroStar TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). Approved by the FDA in 2008, the device delivers highly focused magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in an area of the brain linked to depression.

According to CEO Vic Topo, CLM serves hundreds of patients diagnosed with major depression every year, so it “just made sense” to implement the NeuroStar TMS technology to supplement its existing line of services.

“We provide a number of services beyond TMS, because there are a lot of other problems involved with depression,” Topo explains. “It’s not just a clinical phenomenon; it’s also psycho-social. TMS therapy allows us to offer clients a service that complements what we already have.”

CLM purchased the device outright in August 2010 (without using state funds or opting to lease) in an effort to generate income internally. “It was a way to diversify our revenue base at a time when, frankly, that’s something any organization needs to be doing,” he says. Patients undergo six weeks of treatment, which consists of five sessions per week that last 35 to 40 minutes.

“They sit in what looks like a dentist’s chair,” notes Topo, adding that patients can continue taking their meds during the treatments if they so choose. Each session costs approximately $400 ($2,000 per week). While TMS therapy is not currently covered by Medicaid, Neuronetics maintains that 75 percent of patients are reimbursed by their private-pay insurance provider once a claim has been filed.

“The majority of our clients are not necessarily affluent, so most would not be able to pay on their own,” notes Topo. “It’s an expensive treatment, but we’re being very transparent with potential clients about the cost.”

CLM also plans to work with outside agencies to help clients afford treatments through various payment plans or other types of specialized financing. Financial factors aside, the potential benefits of TMS therapy seem difficult to ignore. In fact, Topo says that patients who start treatment could start seeing results “within the first couple of weeks, if not earlier.”

Over the next few months, CLM will continue marketing the treatment’s availability and building awareness, according to Topo, adding that he believes the treatment will be “extremely helpful” for CLM’s client base, as well as the community as a whole.

“With the TMS therapy, there are no side effects and no chemical elements running through your bloodstream like with medications,” he says. “Aside from counseling, it is the most non-invasive treatment available for major depression. It’s very effective.”

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