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New Treatment for Depression Offers Hope and Healing

by Wesley Delanoy

Pinnacle Behavioral Health, IPA, PLLC, providing behavioral health services in Albany since 2001, is offering a new therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain involved in depression. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for difficult-to-treat depression, TMS has proved effective in more than half of patients, mainly at major academic medical centers. Pinnacle’s decision to start using TMS has created much excitement among local mental health providers. To qualify, patients must have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and proof that they have tried and failed with at least four different antidepressants.
Rocco Pezzulo, chief operating officer at Pinnacle, says, “Most insurers now cover the therapy, unlike when

TMS was first cleared for use, although some make their patients jump through more hoops than others. Medications work for a lot of people, but there are so many people out there who’ve been on meds for 20 years and are still not well and are tired of the side effects. That’s who we think could really benefit.”
Nearly 13 percent, or 43 million Americans are on some type of antidepressant, and 22 million are believed to suffer from major depression. Fortunately for many, depression is treatable either with talk therapy, medication or both. But for 9 million Americans suffering from major depressive disorder, it is not, because they have treatment-resistant depression and are left with their doctors to choose from just a few remaining options.

For decades, doctors have used electroconvulsive shock therapy to induce seizures in hard-to-treat psychiatric patients, including those with major depression, while under anesthesia. While it has been proven effective, the rate of relapse is high and side effects, including memory loss, can be harsh. TMS does not require sedation and does not induce seizures. A helmet containing an electromagnetic coil is placed against a patient’s scalp near the forehead and delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Studies have shown that approximately 50 percent of patients with treatment-resistant depression that try TMS experience a meaningful improvement in their mood, and one-third experience full remission. “It’s a simple outpatient procedure,” Pezzulo says. “You come in, get treated, go right back to work. You can use heavy equipment. There are virtually no side effects. That’s really the beauty of this.”

The procedure is simple, but it requires repeated sessions, and any side effects tend to decrease with each additional session. Side effects that could exist include headache, scalp discomfort, tingling and lightheadedness. When first offered using older technology, TMS often required upwards of 50 sessions to be effective, at almost an hour a session. Pinnacle purchased its TMS machine from a company called BrainsWay, which developed newer technology in the 2000s. Studies have found the BrainsWay technology requires 19-minute sessions five days a week for 36 sessions total to be effective. The first noticeable effects began after 20 sessions.

The Pinnacle outpatient center outsources to the College of St. Rose, and has 40 practitioners under one roof. Their comprehensive counseling services target depression, anxiety and addiction, as well as the unique issues and trauma of men, women, couples and families. Pinnacle Behavioral Health is also one of the few of its kind to offer programs for the LGBTQ community.

Classes and groups are designed to address body, mind and spirit, and include expressive art, yoga, tai chi and qigong. The healing team is comprised of psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed mental health counselors, physicians’ assistants, a nurse practitioner and certified hypnotist.

Most insurance is accepted. Location: 1 Pinnacle Place, Albany. For more information, call Pezzulo at 518-689-0244, ext. 19 or 22, or visit PinnacleBehavioralHealth.com.