Welcome to NYSPI: Our History and Mission

Established in 1895, the New York State Psychiatric Institute (or NYSPI, for short) was one of the first state institutions in the United States to integrate teaching, research, and therapeutic approaches into the care of people with psychiatric illnesses. Despite our long history, many, people are more familiar with the names of our affiliate institutions, Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital (with whom we joined forces in 1925!). 

NYSPI is a special place, and it is worth getting to know what we’re all about.

Today, NYSPI is a joint venture between Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York Presbyterian and the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH).  The mission of the Institute is to “search for knowledge about the causes, prevention, and treatment of mental illness.” Within our walls, there are specialty clinics doing just that – improving knowledge about, for example, substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, trauma, depression and late-life depression, psychiatric disorders in children, and (of course) eating disorders. The federal government, state government, private foundations, and individual philanthropic donations fund the research conducted by groups at NYSPI.

The Eating Disorders Research Unit (EDRU), in particular, was founded over 40 years ago by B. Timothy Walsh, MD. The EDRU aims to further the understanding of eating disorders and their treatments. We see adults and adolescents with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder atypical anorexia nervosa, and associated conditions. We have been designated a Center of Excellence as part of a NY State Initiative, and are dedicated not only to advancing knowledge and treatment of eating disorders but to providing educational opportunities for the clinicians and researchers of tomorrow. The clinic has a team of full-time coordinators who are responsible for patient and healthy volunteer telephone screening, scheduling, and follow-up. Our team assists individuals in determining if they might be eligible for one of our studies. The line-up of studies changes as funding is secured and projects reach their completion.

We are located in Washington Heights, the northern tip of Manhattan, and are connected to New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center by all-weather walkway sky bridges.  NYSPI overlooks the Hudson River and George Washington Bridge. The Institute has 60 inpatient beds (across 3 units) and 23 specialized outpatient research clinics. The building also houses educational facilities and research laboratories, as well as numerous clinical and research training programs in psychiatry for residents, medical students, and students in psychology, social work, nursing, and recreational and occupational therapy.

Since our inception, one of the inpatient units and two associated community clinics have been dedicated clinical services for residents from upper Manhattan. These clinical services reflect our longstanding partnership with our surrounding neighborhood. The other inpatient units are research units. On these units, individuals collaborate with NYSPI researchers on our mission. One research unit at NYSPI is a 12-bed unit specifically dedicated to adolescents and adults with eating disorders. A multidisciplinary inpatient treatment team provides comprehensive clinical services based on the evidence base and other best practices.  Our inpatient program is a unique resource because NY State funding eliminates the necessity for third-party or patient reimbursement. This means patients eligible for research participation receive treatment from this unit (and our associated outpatient research clinic) at no cost — insurance is not taken and there are no costs to the patients. Often, patients who are underweight can complete weight restoration while in our program.

In addition to our inpatient unit, we offer outpatient treatment through our research clinic (including family-based treatment and individual cognitive behavioral therapy), as well as day treatment for adolescents with eating disorders offered in coordination with our Children’s Day Unit

Over the years, our research activities have included psychotherapy studies, medication studies, eating behavior studies, brain imaging studies, and more. Research procedures on the EDRU may include functional MRIs (a magnetic scan), assessments, and computer games. As we are always interested in eating behavior in people with eating disorders, some of our studies continue to involve eating with us in our laboratory. Currently, we are excited to also have an outpatient treatment study offering 6-months of telehealth psychotherapy to adults with anorexia nervosa who have completed our inpatient program. All of our studies share the aim to learn something new about a particular problem so that we can improve treatments. In addition to recruiting people affected by eating disorders, we also typically seek out healthy volunteers to participate in the same procedures so that we can learn if and how things are different for people with and without eating disorders. Healthy volunteers are paid for their time and contribution.

If you are interested in joining us on our mission – either receiving care or simply participating in our research  – please contact us by phone or email:

Phone: 646 774 8066

Email: edru@nyspi.columbia.edu

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