A new program providing services to at-risk youth is being offered in Zelienople, bridging a recovery gap the county has been missing for several years, according to a Butler County Human Services spokeswoman.
For years, minors and their families had to look outside of the county for acute therapy programs that offer an intermediary between hospital stays and outpatient treatment for teens and children who suffer from any number of issues that they deal with on their way to adulthood. But now, Glade Run Lutheran Services is attempting to fill the gap with a program that kicked off Sept. 23. The Zelienople site will offer a six- to eight-week Acute Partial Hospitalization Program for 20 students.
“I love their campus. I think that's a great place to have it. They could go outside and have so many more activities there than other places,” said Joyce Ainsworth, an administrator with Butler County Human Services. “And they have good treatment staff there, so I think they'll do fine.”
Ainsworth said that Glade Run received licensing from the state after getting a letter of support from her department.
After the Butler Health System stopped offering partial hospitalization for minors who needed short-term care, the county has lacked a program that would keep children at home, but still help them if they were struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, poor impulse control, psychosis and unsafe coping skills, combined with family, social and school difficulties. Tucked into the rolling hills around Zelienople, Glade Run Lutheran's staff aims to fill that need.
“The county desperately needed this level of care to reduce inpatient numbers and kids going to residential facilities,” said Steven Green, Glade Run's president and CEO. “It's a day program that allows us to treat them during the day and they could still go home and live with their parents and guardians.”
Green explained the program is designed for minors with mental health issues who need care, but want to continue to live at home. He said the problem with inpatient hospitalizations or residential treatment facilities is that they could cause undue stress by separating a child from their family.
Ryan Helsel, a public defender who represents juveniles in criminal cases, agreed that residential programs can occasionally do more harm than good by taking children away from their everyday lives. He welcomed news of the new program.
“It would be a great resource for kids who have a drug problem,” Helsel said. “So now with this, we could keep them here. It's a good resource. Lots of kids here have drug issues that need to be addressed.”
He said that he often sees his juvenile clients get sent to residential programs such as Adelphoi and Abraxas Youth & Family Services, where children live in supervised quarters during the duration of their stay.
“If we could work with them in the community that would be preferable,” Helsel said. “A lot of them have drug problems, but still go to school or have jobs. But if you send them away, that disrupts their lives. They lose that part-time job they might have.”
Helsel said that it's important to find the right level of care for a juvenile with drug problems, and having the new option from Glade Run might help children stay out of the criminal justice system by the time they reach adulthood.
“The time to get treatment is preferably to do it as a juvenile before they're an adult facing adult criminal charges. Before it's too late,” Helsel said.
Glade Run Lutheran's program will be staffed by one therapist, three or four direct mental health care workers, a nurse, an admissions referral person, and a part-time psychiatrist. The program will also have its own director.
Since the program will be run at the same time as the school year, Green said they will hire a teacher to help coordinate the children's school workload.
“A lot of our work will be working with home school districts to get assignments, so that children return without having missed a beat,” Green said.
During the program, Green said, medical practitioners will be able to prescribe pharmaceutical medication and observe a child's reaction to the medication. And every day will be filled with group and family therapy.
“A lot of times, hospital stays are shortened and then kids can be put into our programs, and we can collaborate with the other doctors and use that time to not only observe, but enhance treatment,” Green said.
Alex Salcido, vice president of clinical services at Glade Run Lutheran, said the program will get referrals for students who “struggle with safety and issues that impact their education, social and family life.”
She explained the program is a steppingstone between different levels of care.
“We stabilize the kiddo and then move them to a level of care that will dig down and figure out the deeper issues,” she said.
Ainsworth noted that the need in the county for this step doesn't surpass the 20 slots available, but she said it's an important part of a child's recovery.
“The symptoms of your illness are at their peak at this point,” she said. “You can equate it to ... rehab. So, you break your leg. You go to the hospital, but then you're not ready to go back to work. You need intensive rehab, so that's the acute level part of the care.”
In the end, Salcido said, an acute program is designed to help children cope with their lives.
“It's about asking, 'How can I look at the world where I won't be so mad, or depressed or whatever?'” she said. “If you don't know when and why you're angry or sad, you can't identify the problems causing it.”