Walden Behavioral Care provides eating disorder treatment to patients throughout New England at seven different clinics, including a Worcester location on Chandler Street where the organization has adult partial hospitalization and adolescent and adult intensive outpatient programs.
The organization came to Worcester in 2010 and now treats approximately 15 to 20 patients daily and has quadrupled its space in that time. Other Walden clinics are located in Amherst, Braintree, Peabody and Waltham and South Windsor and Guilford, Conn. The organization also has inpatient and residential programs in Waltham. System-wide, Walden serves approximately 200 patients daily.
Worcester Business Journal recently conducted a question and answer session with Walden’s president and CEO Stuart Koman.
What is the “elevator speech” about what Walden Behavioral Care treats?
Eating disorders impact nearly 30 million Americans, of all ages, races and genders. The cost is massive for patients, families, the medical community and society as a whole. These disorders are incredibly complex – no two patients have the exact same root cause, treatment experience or journey to recovery.
We cover all types of eating disorders, from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED), to specialized programs for athletes and individuals with Type 1 diabetes.
What population are you dealing with among these patients?
Eating disorders impact all ages, genders, races, body shapes and background. We generally treat any patient 12 and older, with separate programming for adolescent and adult populations. Walden is also one of the few treatment options in New England for males with eating disorders.
How serious are eating disorders?
I’ll be blunt yet honest: eating disorders are life-threatening. They have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses. The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15 to 24 years old.
Unfortunately, the general public – and even many in the healthcare community – grossly undervalues the devastating gravity and prevalence of eating disorders. The number of Americans with eating disorders is about four million higher than the total number of adults with heart disease, yet only 10 percent actually receive treatment.
The most important message is the fact there is as much help and hope today as ever before. I cannot underscore the importance of our mission in providing our patients with the best chance of recovering to go on to a full and meaningful life.
Are the types of eating disorders you are treating different than in the past?
When Walden was founded in 2003, we treated anorexia and bulimia. As time went on though, the spectrum of eating disorder diagnoses expanded and we continue to stay ahead of the evolving demand for treatment.
We formally began treating patients with binge eating disorder in 2007, six years before it became recognized as an official clinical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Binge eating disorder, in fact, is the world’s most prevalent eating disorder, impacting more than two million Americans; 3-5 percent of women and 2 percent of men. Most of those impacted by binge eating disorder don’t even recognize they have it.
How has the treatment of eating disorders evolved in the last 10 to 15 years?
At the core is the shifting understanding of root causes and how to best to address them. We recognize eating disorders aren’t a food problem or about poor body habits. There are underlying psychological, environmental, genetic, and biological factors – among others. Research continues to evolve our thinking on treatment.
I think one of the most important messages we stress is that there is no magic (or even approved) drug to cure eating disorders. We know recovery is a complicated process – but with the right treatment and support system, it is absolutely possible.
Evidence-based treatment modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and family-based treatment, which we use at Walden, have all become industry standards.