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Evanston Facility Aims to Help Young Adults with Mental Illness

By Lee Gaines, Pioneer Press
January 11, 2016 5:49 PM

An Evanston mental health facility has launched a program designed to help young adults suffering or recovering from mental illness develop the necessary skills that will allow them to live and thrive safely in an independent setting.

The Core Competence Home Healthcare Service offered by Yellowbrick, a facility that works exclusively with young adults, will service those aged 17 to 30 living within 10 miles of the Yellowbrick facility.

Occupational therapists, dietitians, career and educational specialists will work with young adults attempting to live on their own on a college campus or apartment to help them develop life skills in four key areas, including health and wellness, independent living skills, cognitive skills and career and education, said Dana Bender, director of the new program.

The program serves as a support for those transitioning from intensive mental health treatment and for young adults struggling to make the leap to independent living, said Jesse Viner, CEO and Chief Medical Officer at Yellowbrick.

"Let's say a young person who tried to go to college, got depressed, started using drugs, made a suicide attempt and was in a hospital for five days, and then what?" he said. "Let's say that person is going to go back on campus, and for them to have the kind of support that helps them feel connected, get their schedule down and make sure their sleep and wellness patterns are in shape, they may need help with various things to keep them in school."

Bender said these patients generally need continued support even after initial hospitalization. Part of the job of occupational therapists and the other professionals assigned to work with these young adults, she said, is to help them regain a lost sense optimism for the future.

"The patients themselves become quite hopeless," she said. "Our goal is to be able to focus on their strengths and what they've been able to accomplish to gain back that lost hope and confidence."

Yellowbrick has provided mental health treatment services to young adults in the Chicagoland area and beyond since the facility was founded in 2006, Viner said. Those who come to Yellowbrick "share the experience of having some type of emotional psychiatric difficulty that has disrupted or derailed their development and for some of them threatened their safety and their life," he said.

Most who receive treatment at Yellowbrick live for a period of time at the facility in "supportive housing," Viner said. After participating in an intensive treatment program at the center, the patients migrate to apartments in the community or on school campuses, where they continue to receive core competence services from Yellowbrick providers.

The new program is simply an expansion upon what is already offered to those who undergo intensive treatment at the facility by offering the service to young adults who may be working with other psychiatric professionals in the community, Viner said. Depending on their individual needs, he said, some patients may benefit from several weeks or months in the program, while those with persistent mental illness may require indefinite ongoing support.

Prospective participants in the program will undergo an initial assessment by a Yellowbrick occupational therapist or psychiatrist at a cost of $500, and the ongoing home visits cost between $125 and $200 per hour, according to a release from the facility.

Viner said "there is really no psychiatric home health service available within Chicagoland" aside from what Yellowbrick is now providing.

Without such services, he said, vulnerable young adults making the transition to independent living run a gamut of risks, including impairment or disability, maladaptive coping patterns like substance abuse and eating disorders, costly psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide.

"There are many risks and costs in not providing this kind of foundational support people need to become responsible, productive and self-sustaining young adults," he said. "There is also the cost of suffering to the families who are really worried about these vulnerable young people launching their lives."

According to both Bender and Viner, the time it takes for all young adults to move from adolescence to established adulthood has lengthened dramatically in recent decades.

"There's a lot of slings and arrows, and for the population that is vulnerable, they can falter and need support along the way," Viner said.

Lee V. Gaines is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press

 

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At Yellowbrick, emerging adults find their way home.

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