Residential treatment center for OCD patients to open in Elk Grove Village
Chicago Tribune - 4/21/2017
April 21--At this treatment facility, pictures on the walls will be crooked, on purpose.
Books on a bookshelf will be jumbled without regard to title, color or size.
It's all part of local hospital system Amita Health's plan to treat patients with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder at the system's new residential treatment center. The 48-bed Elk Grove Village facility -- in the renovated home formerly used by the Alexian Brothers -- will open to patients Monday.
Though a number of residential treatment facilities already accept OCD patients, Amita leaders say their center will be somewhat unique because it will focus specifically on adult patients with OCD, using a type of therapy known as exposure and response prevention. The center also will treat patients with other anxiety and addiction issues. Amita leaders say the facility will fill a gap in care offerings in their current system as well as the state as a whole.
Those who suffer from OCD can have a variety of behaviors. Patients often repeat actions, insist events happen in a certain order and/or fixate on unwanted thoughts. About 1 out of every 100 U.S. adults suffers from OCD, though not all those cases are severe, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Patients with OCD likely will stay at the center for four to six weeks, where they'll be exposed to situations that can trigger their obsessive-compulsive behavior, such as touching an object that might normally make them want to wash their hands, said Patrick McGrath, a clinical psychologist and assistant vice president of residential services for Amita Health Behavioral Medicine.
"The point is to sit with things that are uncomfortable and learn how to handle them," McGrath said. "We do it slowly and gradually."
The center's patients also will get training in mindfulness and nutrition consultations. The facility's former chapel has been transformed into a low-lit reflection room with a window looking out onto a pond. A light-filled room on the building's second floor will be used for expressive therapies, such as art and weekly improv sessions.
Therapists also will use virtual reality treatments, which include a headset, a machine that can produce specific smells and a "rumble pad" to simulate movement, to help patients. A veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, might be put into a battle situation, or an addict might be placed into a simulated party filled with drugs and alcohol.
Amita leaders hope the new Foglia Family Foundation Residential Treatment Center will complement the health system's existing offerings for OCD patients. Now people with severe OCD are sometimes admitted to hospitals for major episodes, or in less severe cases they might spend a few hours at a hospital each day for treatment, said Clay Ciha, CEO of Amita's Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital.
The center will be an option for patients who need something in between -- more than a few hours of treatment a day but not an inpatient hospital stay.
"We are one of the largest behavioral health providers in Illinois, and we always are referring these patients out to other facilities, and oftentimes, facilities that are far away," said Chris Novak, chief operating officer for Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Service Line. "This really is something that is going to benefit our local community."
Across the country, residential facilities that specialize in treating OCD aren't widespread. They often have wait lists that stretch for months, said Karen Cassiday, president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an organization of mental health professionals.
"There is a shortage of residential care for anxiety disorders and OCD," Cassiday said. That may be partly because such centers can be tough to staff given a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists, and because residential treatment for OCD doesn't tend to pull in as much money for hospitals as actual medical procedures, she said.
Still, it can be cheaper for hospital systems to treat OCD patients in residential centers than in hospitals, because residential centers don't require as much overhead, she said.
Amita expects many of the first residential patients to come from within the system, and also is talking to patients in other parts of the country seeking treatment, Novak said. Most insurers cover such residential treatment, he said, which, without coverage would run about $775 a day.
Cassiday said it often can be difficult for patients to get authorization from their insurers to enter such programs.
McGrath said the treatment can be life-altering for many people and their families. He remembered one woman who didn't touch her baby for six months out of fear she'd harm him. After therapy, she finally started holding him.
Patients like her could benefit from the new residential facility, where they might make progress more quickly than if they went to just a few hours of therapy a day at the hospital.
"There's nothing more amazing than watching people get their lives back," McGrath said.
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