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Posted: Mar 6, 2008 11:12


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Rogers Memorial Hospital
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
Mary Jo Wiegratz
Senior National Outreach Liaison
800-767- 4411

Visit by Judith E. Bessette, EdD, January 8, 2008

Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc (their lake country campus) has opened a specialized residential program that offers both diagnosis and treatment for children as young as eight experiencing complex behavioral and mental health problems. The program stay is flexible depending on each child's needs but averages four to six weeks.

Several years ago, Rogers in Oconomowoc successfully opened a program for 12 - 17 year olds. Peter Lake, MD, Medical Director at the adolescent campus told me that "educational consultants, families and other referral sources started asking about services for this younger group" and Rogers responded to the need.

The 10-bed program for children opened last April, offering a secure, supportive environment with a high staff to patient ratio. The new 37,000 square foot patient services wing gives much-needed breathing room to all of the programs on campus, catering to the educational and social needs of these little ones in particular.

Karin Beal, MEd, CYCP is Program Manager and Behavior Management Specialist for the program. Karin and Mary Jo Wiegratz from marketing were my tour guides. We started in the lobby of the new wing in a spacious reception area with several smaller waiting areas offering a sense of comfort and confidentiality to prospective patients and family members. In the Kubly Education Center on the second floor, kids can work at tables or computers in the classrooms, curl up in comfy chairs or even sprawl on the floor in the library. The new dining room and patio on the lower level offer patients a view of the outdoors year 'round and "al fresco dining " from late spring through early fall.

Part of the Child Center is in the main hospital building that has been on the grounds since 1908. The kids' rooms are all doubles - newly renovated and less institutional looking than in the past. Each room has a private sink and toilet, with private showers down the hall - used each day under staff oversight. I was intrigued by a large square of duct tape outside one of the rooms. I learned that it represents "part of the room" so kids with attachment issues (or other problems that cause them to think they have been forgotten if they are out of sight of the staff) can still be minding the rules during room time even if they are in the hall, as long as they stay in the taped-off area.

The group room, a former sun porch, was decorated very pleasantly with new wood-grained laminate flooring being installed the day I visited. Staff offices and individual therapy rooms completed the Center's layout.

Because it was a very rainy day, the kids were having recess in one of the two gyms on campus, playing pool, foosball or shooting baskets. In talking with them, I found that while some of the kids thought the food was great…others did not…but that all of them really like recess!

I observed an experiential therapy session with a remarkably calm, soft-spoken, task-oriented therapist, a behavior specialist and five children. After circling up, each person led group in a stretch of some sort and then shared how they were feeling (rife with teachable moments like learning the difference between being bored and feeling sad.) The "game" they played next involved sharing information about themselves with the group while incorporating physical activity and problem solving skills in figuring out the various moves around the circle that needed to be made as each child's turn was completed. The session ended with participants summarizing information they had learned about one another. The kids were very interesting to watch - and it was fascinating to see the therapist make the session work for five kids with very different issues.

I spent about an hour with Karin, Mary Jo and Medical Director Lauri Green, MD. I learned that most of the day is spent in therapeutic activities - both individual and group work. Brad Riemann, PhD, nationally recognized for his work with patients with anxiety issues, especially OCD, has made cognitive behavioral therapy an important part of the treatment modalities at Rogers. He has modified the work so these young patients can reap its benefits.

There is also time each day for academics - and time set aside each day for fun. The team is expert at combining fun with therapeutic and learning experiences, taking full advantage of the 50 wooded acres and lakefront setting of the program. The natural setting provides kids with safe and healthy ways to express themselves using the ropes and challenge course, hiking, biking and camping - under the direction of experiential and recreation therapists.

Dr. Green - a board certified child & adolescent psychiatrist - works closely with the kids, varying her 20 to 25 hours each week on campus so she can see children at different times of the day each week. Every child sees her at least three times a week, one-on-one. She also sits in on various groups and family sessions - on campus or via phone.

Actively reviewing each new referral, Lauri evaluates how that child can benefit from the current group as well as what that child has to offer the group. While there are almost no complete rule-outs (outside of safety concerns with fire-starters and the like) she is constantly assessing the mix of kids as she considers new patients. Working to strike the right balance may sometimes mean a child cannot be admitted immediately - even if there is a bed available. While it can be frustrating for the family, in the end it's the right approach for the admissions process.

I asked each staff member to tell me one thing they felt was a real strength of the program. For Karin, it's the individualized approach to each child and family. To Lauri, it's the ability of the entire team to adjust based on each child's needs. Mary Jo is impressed that Dr. Green is so hands-on in the day-to-day treatment of each child.

As my tour ended, I visited with Dr. Lake - the creative force behind the Child Center and its "older sibling" - the Child and Adolescent Center. His pride in these two programs shows - and deservedly so. This program is a place that anyone who works with young children should definitely know.

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