Facility for children, teens opens

During her 16 years working at the adult psychiatric hospital in Anoka, Paula Marsh-Geurts often thought, “If only we could’ve […]

During her 16 years working at the adult psychiatric hospital in Anoka, Paula Marsh-Geurts often thought, “If only we could’ve got them when they were younger.” 

Now there’s hope, she said, with the opening in East Bethel this month of Cambia Hills, Minnesota’s first residential psychiatric treatment facility specifically designed for children and teens. 

“This is about children being saved, lives being saved,” said Marsh-Geurts, a behavior intervention specialist at Cambia Hills. 

Young people between the ages of 7 and 17 with depression, anxiety, autism and other severe mental health conditions will get treatment at the $26 million 60-bed facility, designed to help fill gaps in services for youth who often cycle through emergency rooms or resort to out-of-state care. 

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), at the direction of the legislature, selected Cambia Hills as one of three new psychiatric facilities for youth. The Duluth-based nonprofit leading the project, the Hills Youth and Family Services, has two similar locations; Northwoods Children’s Services in Duluth is the only other psychiatric residential treatment facility in the state. 

Northwoods reported a waitlist of nearly 100 in 2018, when it first opened its residential program. In 2017, more than 170 young people were served at an out-of-state residential treatment center. 

According to DHS, more than 100,000 Minnesota children need treatment for serious emotional disturbances. The Minnesota Student Survey in 2016 found that more than 14,000 students had attempted or seriously considered suicide. 

DHS officials said similar facilities are in the pipeline statewide to provide more resources for high-need adolescents. 

“When a kid is sent out of state, it’s really difficult to get engaged in therapy and be part of discharge planning,” said Neerja Singh, deputy director of behavioral health at DHS. “This would really enhance family engagement — a protocol that’s a must.” 

(Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune) 

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