Journal Inquirer
August 2016

Rockville General Hospital is home to a new 30-bed inpatient unit specifically designed for patients with eating disorders, the first of its kind in the state.

The $5 million renovations to the hospital’s former birthing unit is a partnership between Eastern Connecticut Health Network and Walden Behavioral Care, and will serve patients 12 and older beginning next week.

ECHN President Peter Karl said the new unit is the culmination of about six years of work, and stems from the success of a similar Walden outpatient program in South Windsor.

“The old birth place is reborn into this fabulous eating disorders unit,” Karl said Thursday during a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Walden President and CEO Stuart Koman said he expects the unit to make a “very, very critical impact to people with eating disorders in this area,” through “state-of-the-art care.”

“This is a crisis that’s kind of hidden out there,” Karl said. “Unless you have a loved one that has this type of disease, you don’t know how bad it is trying to find someone who specializes.

People will go anywhere in the world to get care for their loved ones, and now we have that right here.”

Koman said those with eating disorders can’t simply abstain from their vice the way drug or alcohol addicts are taught, but rather must be taught a variety of ways to cope. Their parents also need to learning coping mechanisms and they’re oftentimes exhausted, confused, and scared when dealing with a child with an eating disorder.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s too little or too much food, it becomes such the focus of life that it becomes debilitating,” he said.

With the experience gained over time, Koman said Walden has the knowledge to guide patients through the healing process, which includes medical as well as psychological care.

“The reason we do that is so that people who are in the midst of these amazing, major crises, don’t have to figure out where to go next,” he said. “They’ll know that the program leads to recovery.”

He said the program at Rockville General will be the “anchor” for those seeking assistance, and will provide a local, safe place for patients and families.

Paula Vass, Walden’s vice president of clinical operations, said the organization’s “strong recovery culture” has led to a history of success treating those with eating disorders, and that calls from throughout the tri-state area already have begun to come in requesting treatment at Rockville General.

The 15,000-square-feet unit contains separate wings for adults and children, both of which include two-person bedrooms with full bathrooms.

The beds are licensed to ECHN, but Walden will handle day-to-day patient care, due to its expertise in the field, Karl said.

Wings also include seclusion rooms for those with behavioral issues, quiet rooms for privacy, and social rooms. Along with medical personnel, the unit will staff dieticians and social workers.

With a significant shortage of beds in the area for those with eating disorders, Karl said he expects referrals to come from Walden, intensive care units, and pediatricians.

“Peter has created a vision and has allowed us to become part of it,” Koman said.

In addition to its South Windsor clinic, Walden opened another in May in Guilford, and has an option on a piece of residential property in Manchester for a possible adolescent residential program, Koman said.

He noted, however, that the Rockville General unit creates the “nucleus of that system of care.”

By Eric Bedner