April 1, 2004
Special children, special treatment
Spring Harbor opens Maine's first & only inpatient program for youth with developmental disorders
Children who have both mental illness and developmental disabilities can require intensive, specialized inpatient treatment, but this high-level care has never been available in Maine. Families whose children required it had to seek this care at hospitals in states as distant as Florida, resulting in painful separations that hinder the healing process.
Services for these children are now available closer to home. A new 12-bed unit designed specifically to meet the special needs of this complex diagnosis opened at Spring Harbor Hospital’s new facility in Westbrook on March 10. With tremendous support and encouragement from Maine’s Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, Maine’s Mental Health Network has guided the development of the unit over the past year.
Chief Medical Officer Girard E. Robinson, MD, says treatment on the new unit will be available to young people between the ages of four and 21 by a highly trained, multidisciplinary team. It will include a psychiatrist, developmental psychologist, nurses, psychiatric technicians, social workers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and special education teachers.
“We have treated some of these children on our psychiatry units, so we know that their needs are intensive,” says Robinson. “They require more one-to-one time with the treatment team, they often have speech and language difficulties that make communication difficult, and they need special educational programs.”
The new unit will address all of these issues, Robinson notes, while also educating parents on illness management skills that can help the youth limit the number of days each year they spend outside their homes or residential treatment settings.
“One of our success measures will be a decrease in the rate of readmission for this patient group, as well as keeping lengths of stay within the hospital at the lowest possible number of days,” he says.
Robinson notes that the projected average length of stay on the new youth unit will be 75 days, though he hopes that the Network’s work with agencies that also serve this population will create outpatient openings to allow care to continue in the least restrictive, non-hospital setting.
“Above all else, we do not want these young people to languish in hospital beds,” he says. “Ours is a short-term program whose success relies in great part on the willingness of other organizations to offer aftercare services that allow these families to spend as few days as possible in the hospital.”
To learn more about Spring Harbor’s new Developmental Disorders treatment program, please call 761-6644 or (866) 857-6644 (toll-free).
Gail Wilkerson Chief of Marketing (207) 761-2292