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A Hands-On Approach to Mental Health Care

Published on 26 July 2019

A career path in pharmacy was not always clear to Danielle Moses, Pharm.D. '14, but when an emotionally traumatic event struck, it instilled in her a passion that has been the driving force for her success ever since.

Encouraged by her father to pursue a career in pharmacy, Moses made the decision to attend St. Louis College of Pharmacy during her senior year of high school. She enrolled at the College in 2008, despite lingering doubts about her career choice. 

During her fourth year at the College, Moses experienced the shock of learning that one of her family members attempted to take his own life. She watched as her loved one struggled, going in and out of hospitals from Nashville to New York without improvement. 

Eventually, her loved one was connected with a doctor who recommended long-acting injectable therapy, which delivers medication over a month with decreased side effects. 

"I watched my family be impacted by the lack of care our loved one received until someone finally sat down and took the time to examine the full issue," Moses said. "That's when they started the injection therapy, and he started getting better. This experience is the reason I decided I wanted to work with mental health patients." 

As Moses continued work to complete her degree at the College, she completed an acute care rotation in a health care facility with Erin Hennessey, Pharm.D. '11, BCPS, assistant professor of pharmacy practice. The rotation further transformed Moses' perception of pharmacy and the career possibilities within it. 

"She had a job where she was actively making a difference," Moses said. "Doctors really respected her and her opinion. That was eye-opening for me."

Following graduation, Moses began working at CenterPointe Hospital, a St. Louis-based private psychiatric hospital that provides behavioral health care and addiction treatment services. Starting as a PRN pharmacist, she advanced quickly and became the director of pharmacy. Moses then decided to apply for a clinical position at SSM Health Behavioral Health at DePaul Hospital - St. Louis. 

She started at SSM Health DePaul Hospital as a clinical pharmacist specialist in behavioral health. Within a year, she helped launch the SSM Behavioral Health Clinic's long-acting injectable program. 

In this role, Moses has taken a hands-on approach with patients and is dedicated to reviewing their cases more holistically, much like the doctor who originally inspired her to work with mental health patients many years ago. 

"It's been proven that people who struggle with mental illness need more than medication and to be sent on their way," Moses said. "They need psychosocial help as well. I really want to be able to assist with both whenever I'm seeing a patient. I want to focus not only on their medication but on the patient as a whole."

After just six months in operation, the long-acting injectable program at SSM Health Behavioral Health at DePaul Hospital - St. Louis was named a 2018 Best Practices Award Winner by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists during the 53rd Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in Anaheim, California. The exposure has resulted in numerous inquiries about how a similar program can be implemented at other hospitals. 

"Health care professionals are starting to care more about mental health, and my hope is that they will be inspired to provide additional resources to help people with mental illness," Moses said. "The response to our work has been so encouraging."

In addition to her work at SSM Health Behavioral Health at DePaul Hospital - St. Louis, Moses is committed to educating future pharmacists through the creation of a psychiatric rotation at SSM Health DePaul Hospital for P4 students at the College. The rotation is designed to provide a hands-on experience to students with an interest in behavioral health. 

As a pharmacy student, Moses was unsure where the profession would take her. Now, she is continually seeing results in the patients she works with in her role as a behavioral health pharmacist. 

"When you're able to restore a person's mental health, you see the restoration of so many other aspects of their life," Moses said. "I've seen family relationships and friendships restored. I've watched people go back to work and function in society like they've always wanted to. I really love what I do. It's truly my dream job."

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