Ascension Via Christi Consolidates, Expands Behavioral Health

Thursday, February 21, 2019

From left to right: Larry Mitnaul, MD, child and adolescent psychiatry; Walter Kalu, MD, psychiatric hospitalist; Moneeshindra Mittal, MD, general psychiatry; Shean McKnight, MD, psychiatric hospitalist

In January, Via Christi added Ascension to its name, as well as to that of its hospitals and clinics across Kansas.

On Feb. 13, Ascension Via Christi dedicated its newly renovated space at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, which has undergone a more than $50 million renovation converting its medical units to all private rooms and allowing its Wichita Behavioral Health services to be consolidated and expanded on a single campus.

“We began our relocation last summer and will finish that transition next month,” says Moneeshindra Mittal, MD, the board-certified psychiatrist who serves as Medical Director of Via Christi’s Behavioral Health service line. “We’re already seeing the benefits in our ability to better meet the need for services and to provide them in a more timely manner.”

With the move of the final adult units to St. Joseph in March, patients will have increased access to a broad spectrum of inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services in space specifically designed to meet their needs.

St. Joseph’s newly renovated sixth and seventh floors include six behavioral health units that collectively have 101 private patient rooms; dining and group therapy rooms, as well as offices and work and meeting space for clinicians. Those units include a 12-room medical unit within the psychiatric-safe environment; two 25-room adult psychiatric medical units; a 14-room adolescent unit with four beds that potentially could be converted to latency rooms (ages 4 to 11); and a 25-room unit for Senior Behavioral Health.

A psychiatric observation unit on the hospital’s lower level, where up to 16 patients having behavioral health crisis can be de-escalated with immediate medication and therapeutic intervention, will open this spring—helping reduce the need for some inpatient admissions.


Left to right: Shean McKnight, MD; Moneeshindra Mittal, MD; Walter Kalu, MD; and Larry Mitnaul, MD

“We’re becoming much better positioned to serve patients’ physical and mental health needs,” says psychiatrist Walter Kalu, MD, who in June 2017 completed his residency in psychiatry at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita and now serves as a psychiatric hospitalist at Via Christi. Psychiatrist McKnight, MD, joined the team as a psychiatric hospitalist in December 2018.

A therapeutic recreational center for adolescent and adult behavioral health patients is under construction, set for completion in late fall. Space dedicated to the hospital’s residency programs was expanded early on in the renovations, providing additional room for the psychiatric residents based there.

“Via Christi continues to invest in behavioral health — an important component of family care — to better meet the needs of patients throughout south-central Kansas and beyond,” Dr. Mittal says. “That’s exciting for us and for the patients, families and communities we serve and the physicians with whom we partner.”

Expanded Outpatient Options

In July 2017, Via Christi’s Wichita outpatient behavioral health programs and services moved to a newly remodeled location — one with the room needed to expand the programs’ capacity and house its growing team of psychiatric specialists. It spans the entire third floor of the medical office building at 1515 S. Clifton and houses Intensive Outpatient and Partial-Day programs, psychiatric residency, and Ascension Medical Group Via Christi Behavioral Health. It’s also connected by walkway to St. Joseph, providing ready access to the St. Joseph Emergency Room and the new Psychiatric Observation Unit.


Psychiatric hospitalists Walter Kalu, MD, and Shean McKnight, MD, consult on a patient on the new medical-psychiatric unit at St. Joseph.

AMG Via Christi’s Behavioral Health team includes Dr. Mittal and psychiatrist Larry Mitnaul, MD, who specializes in treating children and adolescents; physician assistant Alex Landon; therapist Paula Philson, LSCSW; and advanced practice registered nurses Arian Riordan and Renee Nkana. Collectively, they care for pediatric patients ages 5 to seniors, providing expert assessment and diagnosis; individual and family therapy; mental illness education; symptom awareness training; anxiety and stress management; medication education and management; and referrals for greater needs.

“Earlier intervention helps bring about better outcomes for patients and their families,” Dr. Mitnaul says.

The Intensive Outpatient Program offers medication education and management and group therapy, with a focus on the development of healthy life skills. The Partial Day Program provides more intensive outpatient therapy to those with a diagnosed mental illness, with age-specific programs for those 11 to 17 years old and adults 18 and older.


Moneeshindra Mittal, MD

“The goal of our Intensive Outpatient and Partial-Day programs is to provide frequent group therapy sessions, healthy life skills training, and medication education and management with minimal disruption of school, work and family activities,” Dr. Mittal says.

Together, the expanded inpatient and outpatient programs support Ascension Via Christi’s mission of helping ensure access to quality care, with special focus on those who are the most vulnerable.

“We believe that means providing behavioral health patients of all ages with the right care at the right time and in the least-restrictive environment possible,” says Robyn Chadwick, Executive Leader for Behavioral Health at St. Joseph. “Despite the challenging environment, we are becoming better staffed and equipped to do that every day.”


Have a patient needing behavioral health services? Call 316-858-0550 to schedule a consultation.

Via Christi Clinic Behavioral Health
1515 S. Clifton, Suite 300, Wichita, Kansas
viachristi.org