By Eric Heinz
The residential treatment program at Mount Saint Vincent is no more, after the organization decided to close it in 2022.
Now that the staff and volunteers are no longer looking after children full-time, they are transitioning to a model of outpatient care and continuing the daily education for young people who need behavioral health assistance.
Jenessa Williams, the executive director of Mount Saint Vincent, said the organization, its healthcare partners, and Sisters of Charity Leavenworth spent months deciding how to proceed after certain federal decisions meant its ability to care for children was going to decrease.
“In our residential program, the children lived on campus here,” Williams said. “We had three cottages. They were here 24/7. They attended our school programming on campus as well. They did also go home to either families, guardians, (or) different things for visits. We did really work with families to have some engagement. We had kids that were here for up to two years.”
Mount Saint Vincent was caring for children sent from out of state before the changes.
“This transition now allows us to really start to address the needs in Colorado, for the children and families that are arrayed around us,” Williams said. Bryan Hassler, chairman of the Mount Saint Vincent board of directors, said there are various services still available on the campus, such as animal therapy, physical education activities, and others.
“Especially during COVID, our small piece of the care base had over time been decreasing in value, just because of rules, regulations, and laws that shifted,” Hassler said.
Both Hassler and Williams said the federal Families First Prevention Services Act, passed in 2018, put an emphasis on keeping children in their homes and outside of behavioral institutions, which was the beginning of the end of the residential program. Mount Saint Vincent will provide home visits when needed for behavioral services.
“We certify foster families and actually provide case management care for kiddos that are placed with our foster families,” she said. “That’s really what the push is, to keep kids in a home setting and then go to them and provide the services they need.”
The Mount Saint Vincent campus has been in operation for 140 years and was an orphanage up until the late 1960s. The sisters of the campus lived there until about 10 years ago.
Modernizing the way the behavioral health treatment center can help people, Williams said the residential program had about 16 children under its care when it was discontinued, but with the advent of telemedicine and being able to see people in their homes, she said Mount Saint Vincent can serve almost 200 clients.
“The need is out there and it’s even greater in this time when we’re trying to recover from the shutdown,” Hassler said. “Mental health issues are cropping up in youngsters (and) adults, and the outreach goal is to get the word out there and expand the programs where needs must be fulfilled.”