GREENFIELD — ServiceNet is trying out a new treatment for depression, having recently become the first and only community mental health agency in Western Massachusetts to offer transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to patients.
TMS, a non-drug treatment option for people with Major Depressive Disorder, uses targeted magnetic pulses, similar to MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology, to stimulate areas of the brain that are underactive in depression. According to ServiceNet’s TMS Coordinator and Technician Terry Walk, the TMS treatment “maps the person’s head for the address of their mood, which is in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.”
Amy Timmins, ServiceNet’s vice president of community relations, said Greenfield’s ServiceNet location has had the TMS equipment — which is offered through NeuroStar — since December, and after installation and training, is ready to begin treating patients. The Greenfield site acquired the equipment after seeing positive results with the treatment at its Northampton location, according to ServiceNet’s Vice President of Outpatient Clinics Karen Franklin.
Walk said that during the eight months the TMS equipment has been used in Northampton, roughly 1,000 treatments have been given to 30 people. Timmins said NeuroStar has found the treatment to be 60 percent effective.
Dr. Louis Velazquez, medical director at ServiceNet, said TMS is a well-suited treatment for depression because of the equipment’s precision.
“It only gives a dose that a patient needs,” Velazquez said during an open house at ServiceNet’s Behavioral Health Center, at 55 Federal St., on Thursday. “It’s expensive because it took time to develop, but it’s cheaper in the successive time lost with trials or physical side effects.”
Timmins said the cost of the equipment is negotiated with NeuroStar, with the company offering training and technical support as part of each contract.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration, TMS therapy is covered by Medicare and most commercial insurance plans, and is available only by prescription from a psychiatrist. Timmins said some patients will have a copay, and that ServiceNet is currently getting pre-approval from the insurance companies of potential first patients to be treated in Greenfield.
The non-invasive treatment is administered daily (Monday through Friday) for four to six weeks, followed by a three-week taper period, with treatment sessions performed in 20 minutes. It is also free from systemic side effects often associated with antidepressant medications.
“People can get this treatment and go in on their lunch hour and go back to work,” Timmins said. “People can be going to speech therapy or TMS or both.”
Timmins added that expanding the service to Greenfield helps provide more access to patients.
With the addition of the TMS equipment, Velazquez said ServiceNet can be a “one-stop shop,” allowing for “full service in one small system.” ServiceNet also provides counseling and psychiatry services for individuals and families, sober living options for people in recovery from addiction, emergency shelters and other services.
For more information about TMS treatments, visit servicenet.org/tms. To schedule an appointment at a ServiceNet clin ic, call 413-584-6855.
Reach Melina Bourdeau at [email protected] or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the number of patients treated at ServiceNet’s Northampton clinic.