Beacon offers variety of services for kids

Published 1:41 pm Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tucked in the back corner near the hospital, Beacon Children’s Hospital and its employees work to service the needs of children with a variety of mental health, behavior disorders.

Director Beatrice McLean, who joined the staff last year, said the facility recently celebrated its five-year anniversary.

McLean said the facility offers a secure setting for children and adolescents ages 10-18, and is a 24-7 facility, which receives referrals from parents, emergency room personnel, judges, community mental health facilities, juvenile probation officers, doctors, psychologists, school systems, the Department of Human Resources and a host of other sources.

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The facility has 12 beds in its female wing and 12 beds in a male wing, she said.

The facility is uses a secure system to protect its patients.

“Signs and symptoms of the children we serve include mood disorders characterized by depression and sadness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders characterized by impulsivity, low attention span, low frustration tolerance and other behaviors,” she said. “We also treat individuals diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorders evidenced many times by behaviors such as defying rules, being disruptive and often having trouble in school and other settings.”

McLean said many of the children served at hospital are victims of abuse, have attempted suicide, demonstrate self-injurious behaviors, agitated moods, phobia and a host of other concerns.

“We provide intensive levels of individualized education, therapy, medication therapy, medical attention, group activities, family sessions and skill acquisition,” she said. “We want the children we serve to be active member of society by being able to navigate beyond the devastating effects of mental illness.”

McLean said that children have a reward system, which enables them to participate in “The Zone,” an activity space complete with a huge fish tank, Wii and Playstation for them to utilize.

McLean said she was very proud to say that the facility has a very low seclusion rate compared to other facilities, which she attributes to the effectiveness of the treatment.

“I think it goes to show how good our treatment is,” she said.

Children are allowed a request a time out and use their coping mechanism to release their frustrations, she said.

McLean said she doesn’t see a lot of repeats, and the average stay is about 15 days.

“Some may only stay three days; some may stay 20,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of repeats, but with children you are going to see some. I think ours are within reason. My eyes don’t see failure. We count how long we didn’t see them.”

The hospital has three therapists who work with the children and also work with the family.

McLean said she doesn’t typically see a lot of patients from Crenshaw County.

“We are proud of our very structured and tailored schedule, which is designed to meet the children’s needs. The schedule constantly evolves while maintaining a core curriculum of activities to enhance the lives of children,” she said. “Our programs include skill development, coping skills, anger management, diminishing negative behaviors of bullying, getting along with others, developing self-regulating behaviors and a host of other services.”

Children are fed a well-balanced diet during their stay. Nurses work around the clock to teach children about wellness, medications and leading respectable lifestyles.

Looking ahead, McLean said the goal is “within the next five years we acknowledge our vision to be acknowledged as a best practice facility within the state of Alabama and throughout the world,” she said