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Mo. agency responds to need for adolescent residential care

July 21, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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The Farm, Winfield, Mo.

Bridgeway Behavioral Health's new residential substance use treatment program in Winfield, Mo., is called The Farm and is situated next to a youth camp in a country setting, but treatment administrators emphasize that the focus of this adolescent program will go well beyond experiential therapy alone.

They also explain that while they expect a good number of self-pay arrangements in their 45-to-90 day program, which launches next month, they see significant potential for insurance payment, with concern about adolescent self-harm and with pressure from parents driving this in part.

“Bridgeway has been treating adolescents on an outpatient basis for a number of years. We referred 138 people to residential treatment last year,” says Michael Morrison, CEO of the St. Charles, Mo.-based behavioral health treatment organization. “There are only a couple of residential programs in this region. Some adolescents have had to go to the other side of the state.”

Planners intend for The Farm, scheduled to open Aug. 4, to offer a comprehensive systems approach that transcends a wilderness therapy experience alone, while also easing young people's transition to and from various levels/intensities of care within Bridgeway's continuum. The residential program will serve young males only and will start with a maximum capacity of 10.

Family focus

Scott Snodgrass, Bridgeway's director of adolescent services, explains that the complexities of adolescents' presenting issues requires a comprehensive approach to treatment.

“They're so deficient in so many areas of their life,” says Snodgrass. “Many have narcissism, low executive functioning, and high-risk behaviors. They may be in 11th grade and read at an 8th-grade level.”

And while use of prescription and synthetic drugs is rising in this population, alcohol and marijuana use remain the most prevalent, and lax attitudes about marijuana's potential harms can prove hard to break in young people. In addition, “Past use with their parents is common,” Morrison says. “They all want to spend the summer in Colorado,” where they mistakenly think legal marijuana will be available.

Snodgrass explains that an important component of the Bridgeway program will involve at-home services for families at the time their young loved one is residing in treatment. “A lot of these parents are beaten down—they are no longer the executives of their home,” he says.

Physical space

Program leaders also emphasize the advantages their 100-acre setting located 35 minutes from their corporate headquarters will afford their young patients—for one thing, it will separate them for a time from their obsession with electronic technology.

“When people go for a period of time in nature, it affects them,” Morrison says. Bridgeway has made arrangements with the adjacent youth camp to have its patients take advantage of its amenities. Activities such as equine therapy and Frisbee golf will be available to The Farm's patients.

Bridgeway also has a working relationship with Washington University in St. Louis, where graduate students have conducted research on the benefits of wilderness therapy for adolescents.

Staff at The Farm will include substance abuse counselors, medical staff and peer specialists. Staff will be trained in Motivational Interviewing and cognitive-behavioral therapy, although at times a young person's therapy will consist of his penning a journal entry in a shady spot under a tree.

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