Newspaper article

Patrick Dale: New Day-Treatment Program Addresses Increasing Adolescent Mental Health Needs

Newspaper article

Patrick Dale: New Day-Treatment Program Addresses Increasing Adolescent Mental Health Needs

Article excerpt

Kids these days. According to Patrick Dale, CEO of Headway Emotional Health Services, a Richfield-based provider of emotional health services for children, adults and families, the number of teens in need of mental health care is on the rise in Minnesota. And the number of programs that offer day-treatment services for them has shrunk.

"Young people are facing an increasing number of life stressors," Dale said. The emotional fallout from those adverse childhood experiences manifests itself in a number of mental health issues: "At Headway, we see kids who are dealing with a wide range of issues that also affect adults, including depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder. Kids and families need help, and they are willing to go to great lengths to get it."

Headway, originally called Storefront Youth Action, and then The Storefront Group, was founded in 1970 by a group of suburban parents who wanted to help children and families in crisis in their communities. In its 40-year history, the program has grown to include a number of offerings. One central focus is adolescents; Headway's Hopkins-based day-treatment program offers young people with mental health issues an opportunity to seek therapy while continuing to take high school classes.

This fall, in response to what they see as a growing need for adolescent mental health treatment, Headway expanded its offerings for teens when it opened a new day-treatment program in Brooklyn Center. The new program, like its sister location in Hopkins, will offer comprehensive mental health care and education for up to 40 children ages 12-18.

"The population is definitely there," Dale said. "The response to this new program has been enthusiastic, and we're excited to have another opportunity to help families."

Just days before Headway's Brooklyn Center branch opened, I met Dale at the Hopkins day-treatment program. He was excited to tell me about Headway's mission and history.

MinnPost: You're expanding Headway's day-treatment programs for adolescents. Why?

Patrick Dale: The demand for services for kids in this age group has been growing over a four-or-five-year period. And in the last few years a few of the programs that work with teens have closed due to budget issues. Today, Headway is one of just two or three programs that work with kids in early adolescence through high school age. There just aren't a lot of day-treatment options available in the state for kids ages 12-18.

The impact of these shortages has been seen at other programs, too. Take Prairie Care. They offer a hospital setting for kids aged 18 and younger. Before they opened in 2009, there was a lack of facilities offering that type of service. From Day One, Prairie Care's utilization rate has been something like 99.6 percent. Fairview has also had an increase in demand. Kids are getting transported to different cities, different states to find secure psychiatric services: There is that level of demand at the crisis end.

MP: Is some of this increased demand for services due to an increasing comfort around talking about mental health?

PD: The perception of the need for this kind of treatment has certainly changed over the last five years. Children's mental health has become a topic that people are more aware of and more willing to talk about. Parents and other adults are starting to look for treatment alternatives for kids who are struggling with mental health issues. We're not ignoring things as much as we used to anymore.

But the increase in adolescents seeking mental health care may also have to do with changes in the adult population. The majority of adolescents experiencing mental health issues these days are mirroring what's going on with adults.

It's great that as a society we're finally talking about mental illness. This increased awareness gives us a language to use to describe what is going on in people's minds. When I was in school, kids who struggled were called "weird" or "dumb. …

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