bartlesville – Oon the west side of town, opposite the GRAND Mental Health offices, has a one-story brick house. From the outside it looks like any other house. But it was built with a very special purpose: to provide innovative, outstanding treatment for families whose children are dealing with mental health issues and behavioral challenges.
The house is a Short Stay Therapeutic Home (BSTH) and is the first of its kind. Its goal is to increase the chances of positive change for families and reduce the number of children with behavioral challenges who are separated from their families.
Studies have consistently shown that mental health treatment is more effective when delivered in less restrictive environments. Unless it’s absolutely necessary to confine someone to an inpatient facility, people usually respond best to treatment if they can stay in their homes and go about their daily lives.
These concepts are especially important when dealing with children. Even when the problem has progressed to the point where it seems necessary to remove the child from the home, the removal itself can be extremely disruptive to the child’s mental health. The ideal situation in many cases would be for children to receive treatment in their own homes and with their families.
This is what inspired BSTH, which was built to help keep families together while offering them short-term, intensive treatment as a family unit. It was built by GRAND Mental Health, a board certified community behavioral health clinic where I serve as executive director. As far as we can tell, this is the first time this model has been implemented.
Bringing therapy home
Families stay in our therapeutic home for a short stay of one week. During this time, their interactions are monitored and treatment is tailored to their particular challenges using evidence-based therapeutic practices.
A team of professionals led by a licensed clinician works daily with the stay-at-home family. Clinicians observe the family’s natural interactions and use audio and visual monitoring technology to guide and support behaviors. Parents can wear a headset to get real-time expert guidance to help them through difficult interactions.
The goal of BSTH is to bring family members together to work on issues and improve their overall functioning. Treatment is focused on problem solving, building strong family dynamics, and improving communication in a safe, recovery-focused environment.
The concept launched earlier this year with a fully furnished house in Bartlesville that includes four bedrooms, two bathrooms, living areas, a kitchen and a dining room. The home intentionally looks and functions like any other home. By design, there is nothing clinical or institutional about its appearance.
That said, there are some safety modifications in the home, mainly to prevent self-harm, and the house has an open floor plan so parents can keep a close eye on any child who exhibits self-injurious behavior.
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Hopes for the future
The house opened on November 1 and has already hosted several families. The results so far are promising. All the families who remained in the house have returned home together and continue to receive support from wrap-around services.
BSTH accepts families for treatment based on referrals from GRAND Mental Health Facilities, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS), the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA), and other child serving agencies and school districts. Children transitioning from residential care also have the right to remain at home with their families.
Bartlesville BSTH has the capacity to provide care to 52 families each year. GRAND plans to open additional BSTH locations in the coming years throughout northeast and north central Oklahoma.
This home is fundamentally changing the way we care for children in our community. It allows us to provide care in a home context, helping families to course correct and stay together. We hope that this is just the first home of its kind and that it will inspire innovative family-centered treatment across our state and country.