WISC TV Ch. 3000: Mercyhealth opens larger facility for children, teens with mental health

JANESVILLE, Wis. – Visitors walked around a new 10,000 square foot facility Wednesday that hopes to bring help to more children and teens struggling with mental health and behavioral concerns.

Mercyhealth’s Child and Adolescent Day Treatment Program has served 928 patients since it started in 2006. After moving to a new space in May, the program hopes to reach even more young people in need.

“We are just looking to serve more kids in the community,” program manager Belinda Wellnitz said. “We can serve up to 100 kids now in this new facility, and we’re also looking to expand our addiction substance use services for adolescents.”

Mercyhealth hosted two open houses Wednesday for people to tour the facility and sign up for services.

The treatment program serves children and teens ages 5-17 who struggle with impulsiveness, tantrums, aggression, social withdrawal, self-harm, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate and substance abuse, according to Mercyhealth.

“I think it’s really important to have a facility or a program that helps treat children because they are our future, and I think you have to invest in that,” Dr. Rathna Mallela, a child and adolescent psychiatrist for the program, said.

The program has three levels of service. Level 1 is the Child and Adolescent Day Treatment program, which is an intensive 12-24 week program. Level 2 is Intensive Outpatient Services, which is a step down from Level 1 for those who have already completed the program or need a lower level of service. It’s an eight-week treatment plan. Level 3 is a four-week extended care program for those who have completed both Level 1 and 2 programs or don’t need an intense level of service.

Most of the programs involve group therapy sessions for two or three hours. There are also one-on-one sessions with psychologists, psychiatrists and family therapists.

“The importance of group therapy is that you can see that it’s not just you,” Mallela said. “There’s a lot of kids that are going through the same things and that feeling of helping somebody else or mentoring somebody else really does lift up your spirit.”

After completing the programs, staff work with families to help them find additional resources to make sure the child continues to get the help he or she needs.

“I think it’s important that as the stigma of mental illness declines, that we’re able to say, ‘Hey, my kid does have an issue here, and it’s not that big of a deal, and we can get help for them,’” Mallela said.

The new location at 2600 Humes Road, Ste. 100 in Janesville is right off Interstate 39/90 and next to Shopko. Wellnitz said the location makes it more accessible for the patients the facility serves in Rock, Walworth and Jefferson counties.

Many schools, pediatricians and outpatient therapists refer children to the program, but parents and patients can also refer themselves. Anyone interested in learning more information about the programs offered for children and teens can call 608-741-2117.

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