Children are often admitted to the unit through the hospital’s Emergency Department or from referrals outside the hospital.
“Referrals are sometimes sent from school — children who are out of control, destructive or threatening themselves or other people,” said Sharon Schmidt-Twiss, director of Behavioral Health Services for the hospital. “There are reasons these children need hospitalization.
“The community thinks we do these mental-health assessments (on admitted patients),” she added. “We’re not here to do assessments; we’re here to provide care for these children prior to referral (for outpatient services) to Clinton County Mental Health or BHSN.”
Children entering the unit through the ER do receive a full psychological assessment and a medical-health history, Richards added.
Staff members will also talk with family members or social workers involved in the patient’s case as they prepare a treatment plan for the next several days.
“We have several skills-building objectives and continue to provide education (while children are admitted),” Schmidt-Twiss said. “We have contracted with school teachers to provide education as our treatment team provides support.”
“We provide occupational therapy, nutritional counseling,” Richards said. “We work very closely with parents, teachers and the children in setting probable goals.”
The hospital will discharge a patient with recommendations for additional therapy, but a child will sometimes have to be readmitted for continued acute care. At that point, the staff will work to determine what other services might be beneficial for the child.
“We sometimes request a child be placed in a residential-treatment setting, but those are very few, and there are always long waiting lists,” Schmidt-Twiss said.
“We get kids in crisis, families in crisis,” Richards said. “Our treatments can vary a lot from one crisis to another, but we’re able to offer a service this community is privileged to have.”