Who qualifies for the STEP Program?
STEP provides evaluation and treatment services for individuals, ages 14 to 40, who are having psychotic symptoms or difficulties separating reality from unreal experiences or false beliefs.
Symptoms of Psychotic Illness
Symptoms may be substance-induced, related to medical illness, or part of an adjustment to developmental changes, especially in adolescents or young adults. The early symptoms may mimic mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders, but also may be a sign of a potentially serious psychotic illness.
Symptoms may include:
Delusions or false beliefs
- The person may believe that people are talking about or trying to hurt him or her; he or she has special powers or is “specially chosen;” he or she is receiving messages from television or other unlikely sources; parts of his or her body have changed (having two hearts, for example) or stopped working
Hallucinations or other perceptions without an external source
- The person hears voices, sees things that others cannot see, or experiences strange sensations of the skin or within the body.
- The person may shift rapidly from idea to idea without a clear connection. The person’s speech may be illogical, and his or her way of speaking may be unusual. Changes in concentration and/or attention also may be present.
Social or emotional difficulties
- The person may become socially withdrawn and may have diminished expression of emotions. He or she may express emotions inappropriately (for example, smiling while describing distressing events).
What STEP Offers
The STEP treatment team offers continued therapy and follow-up care, including state-of-the-art psychotherapeutic and medical treatment, along with regular contact with a psychiatrist.
Appropriate treatment may include medications, which are effective in relieving many of the symptoms. These medications may have side effects, so it is very important that the decision to use them is based on an accurate and thorough assessment. Individuals experiencing these difficulties should be thoroughly evaluated by mental health professionals trained in recognizing the early features of psychotic disorders.
STEP uses UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital's clinical facilities and diagnostic technologies to help understand the origins, development, treatment, and course of psychotic illnesses. In addition to working closely with their treatment teams (psychiatrist and therapist), individuals in the STEP Program have access to several recovery-oriented programs, a clinical pharmacist, and case management services through CRS.
These services may help individuals achieve their learning, working, living, socializing, and health goals. Support and educational meetings are offered for the families of patients.
The STEP coordinator may determine whether people are eligible to participate in research studies that focus on the early course of psychotic disorders. Research studies may include detailed clinical assessments, physical examination, neuropsychological testing, blood studies, and brain imaging. These research assessments may be completed in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Consent for research is obtained separately and is conducted under the rules and regulations of the Human Research Protection Office of the University of Pittsburgh. There is no cost involved for research procedures.
Referrals to STEP
For more information regarding the STEP Program, please call 412-246-5599.
To make a referral or schedule an initial evaluation, please call 412-246-6196.
For more information regarding research opportunities, contact the STEP research coordinator at 412-586-9009.
Deepak Sarpal, MD
Medical Director, Psychiatrist
Deborah Wilkinson, LPC, MS, MDiv, MA
Christie Kelly, LPC, MA
Konasale Prasad, MD
Fabio Ferrarelli, MD, PhD
Kimberly Mathos, DO
Psychiatrist, Adult/Child and Adolescent
Tushita Mayanil, MD
Psychiatrist, Adult/Child and Adolescent
Helen Wood, DClinPsy
Melanie Yabs, PharmD, MS
Danielle LeFevre, LPC, NCC, CCTP
LaDawn Myers, MS
Ventura Simmons, MS
Krissi Hockman, MBA
Supported Employment Specialist
Derment Winston, AA, CPS