Coping mechanisms

For many struggling students, hospitalization is an intimidating option, but the staff at Ascension Alexian Brothers’s partial hospitalization program has made becoming healthy less scary


Maddie Canada

The Coventry Corporate Center in Crystal Lake houses many facilities to help adolescents improve their mental health, including Ascension Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health.

Savannah Drost, Staff Writer

Tamara Barrera goes to the office at 7:30 a.m. She checks her emails, looks at the schedule and gets everything ready when the first child walks in at 8 a.m. A half hour later, when all the children are present, she goes to a room and starts a process group. The children talk about what is on their mind and treatment related goals.

Ascension Alexian Brothers runs partial hospitalization program in Crystal Lake for adolescents with mental health issues. It has been around for four years now. The PHP program has trained therapists known as case managers, who run groups and help kids to recover.

There is a main Alexian Brothers in Hoffman Estates that also treats inpatient adolescents as well as the PHP, but the main building the crystal lake office has more goals to help adolescents.

Barrera is one of the case managers. “I feel like we can promote another program here that can help this adolescent program and kind of make it like Hoffman and expanded,” she says. “Right now we’re crosstracking with the eating disorder department. That’s been helpful. And we’re currently crosstracking with the autism program that just recently started so maybe if we can get more departments to help would be awesome. Like the self injuring program. Substance use for sure. So I feel like that would be helpful.”

Everyday the patients schedule includes two coping skills groups, an hour of process group, expressive therapy, lunch and an hour of school in the morning. Kris Jablomsk is the program teacher. “My job is to keep the homework going,” she says. “I reach out to teachers at schools and get what each student needs to do while they’re here so they don’t get overwhelmed when they go back to school.”

Alexian Brothers’s PHP program has expanded in their treatment programs and has help take depression numbers down. Ryan Davis is another therapist that works with patients. “We are able to quantify how effective that program here is. So I think we dropped depression and anxiety levels by about 45% this last quarter, from beginning to end for patients that come in to when they’re discharged. So dropping anxiety, depression, close to 50% is pretty helpful and useful. So there’s a large body of evidence to support that, if a program like this existed all over the place all over the world, the world would be a lot less depressed and anxious.”

Gabrielle Melchert has been working for the PHP program for about two months but prior to that she worked in the hospital head of the eating disorder program where she has impacted many lives.

“So I have at least one really good success story,” Melchert says. “And it was working with an elderly woman with eating disorder who was in her 70s, I want to say, and it was their first time getting treatment. We successfully helped them restore weight and maintain before discharging program and they have not returned thus far.’

Adolescents and even adults struggle with mental health and when help is needed there are places and programs that are beneficial to that.

At the end of the busy day, Tamera goes back to her office to make the final calls and put in last notes. She imagines the impact her job can help in mental health in the near future.