As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I would share with you some information about our children’s partial hospitalization program.
The year was 1998 when we recognized that a number of our children have both intellectual disabilities as well as mental health disorders. Our goals were to reduce challenging behaviors through a combination of behavioral treatment, pharmalogical management, and changes in environmental structure.
We planned to provide functionally-based intensive intervention in the areas of communication, self-help, and social and emotional skills, thereby facilitating age-appropriate interactions. We would also provide parents with information in training in the effective methodologies to minimize the impact of the disorder on the family. We applied and secured our initial license to offer a children’s acute partial hospitalization program, becoming one of the first school-based partial programs in Pennsylvania.
Our program serves students who are enrolled in our approved private school. Following referral and acceptance into the program, a psychiatrist observes the student and consults with staff on a weekly basis. A clinical psychologist and mental health specialists are also part of the classroom team. Every 15 days, the psychiatrist and team members meet with families to update them on the student’s progress as well as to discuss any concerns in the home. When the student has met the treatment goals, a discharge plan is developed with the family to assure the continuity of supports, both in the school and at home.
Has this program made a difference? Most definitely yes for both our children and our families. In most cases, in-patient treatment is avoided and the children are able to remain at home with their families. Although our numbers are small (only 20 children are served at any given time through MH Partial) the intensity of the services yields very positive results. We plan to continue this component of our approved private school program as long as the need exists.