Mental Health Facility Gains National Recognition

By KBJR News 1

May 24, 2012 Updated Jun 12, 2012 at 9:42 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - 16-year-old Joe Dahl says his passion for music often helps him cope.

"I don't know what I would do without music," Dahl told the Northland's NewsCenter's Kevin Jacobsen.

Doctors diagnosed the talented Proctor High School student with depression this year, but Dahl says he's lived with it for some time.

He admits suicidal thoughts sometimes cross his mind.

"It's gone on for a couple of years. Since I got into High School, it's never been quite normal."

Dahl was admitted into the Teen Partial program at Miller Dwan just last month where he went through an intensive three weeks of therapy.
He's part of a growing statistic in the Northland, often misunderstood and invisible to the naked eye.

"I think just because a child is having a good day at school or because we see teens in High School seemingly having a good day, does not mean they are not depressed," said Dr. Rick Gertsema, the clinical supervisor for Amberwing.

It's that mentality and teens like Dahl, that have helped fuel the call to expand the reach of Miller Dwan and build this new center aimed at combatting the epidemic.

"Amberwing will be transformational care for kids and young adults."

The facility will use some standard methods of psychological care but will also introduce some innovative holistic care to patients and their families.

Gertsema recently gave the Northland's NewsCenter a tour of the state of the art facility.

"More calming, more grounded, more earthy, more about peaceful and presence and healing," Gertsema said.

This $6M facility came together in a short amount of time thanks to generous donations from the community. Once Amberwing is complete it'll be able to treat up to 60 children and young adults.

The non-institutional program will serve elementary, middle and high school students providing them with individual and group therapy along with school classes.

"We're unique in that that we'll be a partial hospitalization program which means about a 15 day length of stay for kids," Gertsema said. "But we'll also offer alternative therapies which will include art therapy, music, drama, animal assisted therapy, occupational therapy."

All helping it gain national attention.

"I've never seen such a thoughtful program, where every detail has been attended to," said Shari Manning, the CEO of Treatment Implementation Collaborative.

Manning is a nationally-renowned therapist.She's training Amberwing's staff Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills; such as feelings, emotions and stress tolerance and how to teach patients alternate behaviors to avoid bad habits.

"How you deal with life when it throws you things that often makes you do things you regret doing," Manning explained.

From the community support Amberwing has received to the faces behind the program, Manning says experts will look to the program as inspiration.

"As far as I am concerned, it already is model," Manning said. "I am already holding it up to people and saying I think is what we can aspire to."

Rick Gertsema adds another attraction of Amberwing is how it will embrace families in treatment.

" One of our missions is to not only address the depression, suicide and anxiety, but how do we also get families involved in care so that we know that when a child is in crisis, a family is in crisis."

For those who've experienced the therapy first hand, they say it's important to have an open mind.

"If you can get the help you need it makes things a lot better, said Joe Dahl. "I want kids to find that strength and talk about it and get the help they need."

Officials with Miller Dwan say they've never turned away a child from seeking treatment at their facilities, no matter the family's financial situation.

Kevin Jacobsen
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