Positively impacting lives through personalized one-on-one care

Positively impacting lives through personalized one-on-one care

From left: Amanda Snow MSN, PMHNP-BC, Justin Ray, MSN, PMHNP-BC, and Practice Manager Christy Woolridge

Nothing has shed light on the importance of addressing mental health struggles quite like the two-year COVID pandemic. In May 2021, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Justin Ray opened his new clinic, South Chesapeake Psychiatry, in the Edinburgh North Shopping Center to address all general psychiatric conditions, including ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder. The clinic was born of Justin’s desire to establish a practice where patients do not feel like nameless, faceless numbers but, instead, get the one-on-one personalized attention they need to successfully treat their mental health conditions.

“With over 30 years of psychiatric experience, I’ve seen and learned a lot and decided I wanted to open a practice that would allow me the opportunity to give patients the time and medical access they need to improve their quality of life,” Justin explains. He and his colleague, Nurse Practitioner Amanda Snow, both share the same passion for providing quality care to their patients.

Justin’s journey to becoming a psychiatric health provider started 30 years ago as a young corpsman in the Navy. “I’ve been in the mental health field since I was 19,” he says. “I joined the Navy as a hospital corpsman and was assigned to psychiatry. I became a psych tech and have been working in psychiatry in some form or fashion since that time. I’m board-certified to treat patients age 12 and older.”

Originally from Maine, Justin served 22 years in the Navy, with most of his time spent living in Chesapeake while working at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. When he retired in 2014, Justin moved back to Chesapeake, and although retired, didn’t stop working. Instead, he continued to faithfully treat patients and make a difference.

“Post-retirement, I worked for the Hampton/Newport News Community Services Board, for Portsmouth Regional Jail on the weekends, and for Chesapeake Psychological Associates in evenings,” he says. “Eventually, I left the Community Services Board and Chesapeake Psychological and went to work corrections full time and part-time with Fairfield Psychological Associates.” Justin focused his time on working with Fairfield Psychological Associates until 2021, when he decided to open his own practice.

Justin Ray, MSN, PMHNP-BC

Currently, in addition to running South Chesapeake Psychiatry, Justin also serves his community as part of the ACT Team for the City of Chesapeake, treating mental health patients who are often homeless, in shelters, or without means to obtain medical treatment.

“It’s like a hospital without walls,” Justin explains. “We deal with some of the most severe cases of psychiatric illness in the community. These patients are often in and out of the hospital or in and out of incarceration. We try our best to keep and treat them in the community. We go to them so that they don’t have to come to us.”

Amanda Snow has the same passion for psychiatry as her colleague, whom she first met while also serving in the Navy. Her career path, however, was quite different. Originally going to college for a pre-law degree, Amanda discovered her passion for psychology and psychiatry.

“My psychology professor had lectures that really spoke to me, and I found them fascinating,” Amanda recalls with a smile. “That’s when I realized my intense interest in the field. I kept taking more psychology classes and made it my major. I just love it!”

“We always take the time
to communicate directly
with the clients
Just knowing there’s someone here
that they can count on
makes them feel so much better.”

-Justin Ray, MSN, PMHNP-BC

Amanda Snow, MSN, PMHNP-BC

After graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in psychiatry and English, Amanda worked as a case manager for Peninsula Covenant Health Care in Tennessee, where she did psychiatric case management and residential foster care. Eventually, Amanda wanted to go back to school to study nursing, but, sadly, she didn’t have the funding to do so. That’s when her uncle made a suggestion that changed her life.

“My uncle was a CMC in the Navy. He said a lot of great things about it and encouraged me to join to help me pay for my schooling, so I did!” she says. “I started off as an E-3 corpsman and worked my way up to the medical enlisted commissioning program, and they paid for my nursing school.
“By the time Amanda attended Nurse Practitioner School, the curriculum had been changed to include a family track. With her previous experience working with children, Amanda decided that would be the best certification to get. “I saw a lot of kids as a case manager,” she recalls. “I love kids. More importantly,” she adds with a smile, “kids seem to like me a lot.” As a result, Amanda is certified to see patients of all ages.

“We take time with our patients.
I want to get to know each patient
and learn what they’re experiencing
so I can get to the
root of their problems.”

-Amanda Snow MSN, PMHNP-BC

Amanda frequently moved during her years of naval service, spending time in Connecticut, Virginia, and North Carolina. She met Justin while stationed at Camp Lejeune.

“I met Amanda when I was working inpatient psychiatry at Camp Lejeune, and she was one of the psych nurses on the floor,” Justin explains.

“Yeah. I was the charge nurse, and he was the bossy nurse practitioner!” Amanda teases good-naturedly.

The two colleagues remained in touch over the years, and with their easy comradery, it was no surprise that Justin would reach out to Amanda to join him at his new practice.

For Justin, the creation of South Chesapeake was a labor of love 30 years in the making, with a great deal of thought put into bringing his vision of a patient-centered practice to life.

“I took a lot of time to think about what I wanted my own private practice to be and what I could do to provide the level of care I want my patients to receive,” Justin says.

“We’re always focused on quality here.
We emphasize having empathy
for our patients…
We truly care about them
and what they’re going through.”
-Sarah Stankavich

After careful planning, Justin decided that South Chesapeake Psychiatry would be built on what he calls The Five Pillars of Providing Patient-centered Care: Availability, Accountability, Expertise, Excellence, and Quality.

“I think most patients would agree that availability and access to their provider are key,” Justin explains. “Many patients have difficulty just reaching their practice, much less getting in touch with their provider. Not being able to speak with someone and having to leave a message on a machine when they have a need is exceptionally frustrating for all patients-especially those receiving mental health treatment. We’re available to them at all times. Our patients have our phone numbers and email addresses, and any messages are always relayed promptly. There’s never been a day in this practice when we haven’t either picked up the phone or called the patient back, often within minutes. No patient at South Chesapeake Psychiatric will ever feel ignored.”

Justin and his staff are always mindful that they have duty of care for their patients, and they strive to make sure patients feel that someone is there for them when they need it.

“It could be very easy for caregivers to become complacent and forget the impact they have or the regard they’re given by their clients,” Justin points out. “To me, I’m just Justin. But a 30-second email back to the client means so much more to them than we might think. We always take the time to communicate directly with the client. Sometimes just knowing that they have that accessibility gives them a sense of security. Just knowing there’s someone here that they can count on makes them feel so much better.”

Standing with the Pillar of Availability is the Pillar of Accountability. Each practitioner and staff member is accountable to the patients to ensure nothing slips through the cracks, that any issue is quickly rectified, and that top-notch care is always provided. The practice boasts over 50 years of combined expertise in psychiatric care between Justin, Amanda, and office manager Christy Woolridge.

The team works daily to uphold the Pillar of Excellence by providing superior service and care for their patients.

“We take time with our patients,” Amanda explains. “I want to get to know each patient and learn what they’re experiencing so I can get to the root of their problems and then take the time to educate them regarding their condition and treatment.”

“Our patients have our phone numbers and email addresses,
and any messages are always relayed promptly…
No patient at South Chesapeake Psychiatric will ever feel ignored”
-Justin Ray, MSN, PMHNP-BC

According to Justin, the Pillar of Quality Care is dependent on all the rest. “Availability, Excellence, Expertise, and Accountability are the four things necessary to be able to provide quality care,” he insists. “They lay the entire foundation. Patients need to be confident that their providers have the mental health expertise required for providing excellent care, that they will be held accountable to the highest standards, and will always be there to help them.

“We’re always focused on quality here,” Medical Assistant Sarah Stankavich adds. “We emphasize having empathy for the patients. Should a patient ever call us upset and stressed, I always assure them that the provider will speak with them that day. We want them to know that we will never brush them aside. We truly care about them and what they’re going through.”

One of the reasons that Justin and Amanda can spend extra time with their patients is because they don’t take insurance. While that may seem like a deterrent for many patients, Justin is quick to point out that patients can still file for reimbursement.

“It’s not as if there’s no coverage at all,” he explains. “We give the patient the ‘Superbill’ required by most insurance companies that will allow them to file the claim themselves. Most insurances will allow people to see an out-of-network provider. Each insurance is different, but most patients get some form of reimbursement if their policies allow out-of-network providers. I’ve often seen many Tricare patients who, depending on their policy, get full reimbursement.”

“And since we don’t accept insurance, we have very reasonable prices for the service that we offer,” Christy adds. “Ultimately, we’re here to help people; we’re not going to make it so they can’t afford to be helped.”

The reason for not accepting insurance is that Justin is convinced that policies limit the quality of care with restrictions on time, number of visits, and coverage for specific conditions and services.
“We don’t take insurance because, in our opinion, it interferes with and affects the level of care we can provide to the client,” he asserts. “Insurance companies limit the number of visits a patient can make and how much time we can devote to a patient. Rather than doing what insurance companies dictate and providing mediocre care to 35 patients a day, we’re able to provide top-notch care to our patients even though we may see fewer during the day. My philosophy is quality over quantity.”

From the number of patients who have followed Justin to his new practice and the five-star Google reviews it has received, not accepting insurance has had no negative impact on South Chesapeake Psychiatry. Justin Ray is excited to see his vision of a unique clinic providing high-quality patient-centered care become a reality. He, Amanda, and their entire staff are committed to making a difference and having a positive impact in patients’ lives.

“I want to provide the best psychiatric care in Hampton Roads,” Justin concludes, “and I think that’s what we do.”