A new agreement between District One Hospital and Rice County Social Services will help ensure that adults who have been hospitalized with mental illness can transition seamlessly back into the community.

The two outpatient services included in the agreement approved last week by the Rice County Board of Commissioners are an adult day treatment program and a partial hospitalization program, both to be offered at District One Hospital and staffed by Allina Health. Rice County Social Services will work with referrals.

“We’re excited about them starting up,” said Mark Shaw, Rice County Social Services director. “There are very few options for adult day treatment services so this is a good option to get that service locally through District One. It’s always been a need.”

Chris Kern, who supervises adult mental health services for Rice County, also supervises the case managers who will refer clients to the adult day treatment program. When asked, “Why now?” she said, “I’m not sure; I’m just grateful.”

“We have always had the need, but we have to work with the resources that are available to us,” Kern said. “It’s really wonderful that Allina saw there was a need in southern Minnesota, because it won’t just be Rice County, it will be southern Minnesota that will access these programs.”

Until the contract agreement came about, Kern said patients often needed to travel to the metro to access these services. It can also take a while before individuals can access the services after being discharged from the hospital, she said, so having the options locally will reduce the wait period.

Kern explained that when individuals are discharged from a psychiatric hospital, they need to learn a lot about coping with their symptoms as they transition back into their community. The partial hospitalization program would create a bit of buffer, running six hours a day Monday through Friday. This allows patients to go home at night, offering them a chance to practice their skills and return the next day for feedback and support from mental health professionals. The average length of this program, said Kern, would be three weeks.

The adult day treatment program, another intensive service offered through the agreement, includes half days of group therapy for as long as an individual needs. The program itself would do the intake, Kern said, evaluating where patients need help with functioning and skill-building.

“Mental illness sometimes has an ebb and a flow to it, so if you can get some intensive treatment it can help avoid hospitalizations, which are disruptive to people’s lives,” Kern said. “... We’re educating folks so they don’t need future hospitalizations.”

More intensive than one-on-one talk therapy, the group therapy model of the adult day treatment takes the approach of everyone healing together rather than being in isolation.

This program, said Kern, will allow individuals to share their experiences with one another and establish friendships that might continue beyond the group therapy sessions. Mental health professionals and nurses employed through Allina will run this program.

The two new services will begin as soon as District One Hospital gives the green light that it’s ready for patients, Kern said. Those who may benefit from the services may contact Rice County Social Services at 507-332-6115 or Allina Health for updates and more information.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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