BARTLESVILLE — On the west side of town, across the street from the offices of GRAND Mental Health, there’s a one-story brick house. On the outside, it looks like any other house. But it was built with a very special purpose: to deliver innovative, immersive treatment for families whose children are dealing with mental health issues and behavioral challenges.
The house is a Brief Stay Therapeutic Home (BSTH), and it’s the first of its kind. Its goal is to increase the chances of positive change for families and decrease the number of children with behavioral challenges who are separated from their families.
Studies have repeatedly shown that mental health treatment is more effective when it’s 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 are able to stay in their own homes and continue with their daily lives.
These concepts are particularly important when dealing with children. Even when a problem has gotten to the point where it seems necessary for a child to be removed from the home, that displacement 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 own families.
This is what inspired the BSTH, which was built to help keep families together while offering them short-term, intensive treatment as a familial unit. It was built by GRAND Mental Health, a certified community behavioral health clinic, where I serve as CEO. As far as we can tell, this is the first time this model has ever been implemented.
Bringing therapy home
Families stay in our Brief Stay Therapeutic Home for a week. During that 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 family staying in the home. The clinicians observe the family’s natural interactions and use audio and visual monitoring technology to guide and support behaviors. Parents can wear earpieces to get real-time professional guidance to help them through tough interactions.
The goal of the BSTH is to bring family members together to work on issues and improve their overall functioning. Treatment is focused on addressing problems, building strong family dynamics, and improving communication in a safe, recovery-focused environment.
The concept launched earlier this year with the fully furnished house in Bartlesville, which includes four bedrooms, two bathrooms, living areas, a kitchen and a dining area. The home intentionally looks and functions like any other home. There is, by design, nothing clinical or institutional about its appearance.
That said, there are some safety modifications in the home, mostly to prevent self-harm, and the house has an open floor plan so parents can keep a close watch on any child who shows self-harming behaviors.
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Hopes for the future
The house opened on Nov. 1 and has already hosted several families. The results so far are promising. All the families that have stayed in the house are back home together and are continuing to receive support from wraparound services.
The 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 out of inpatient care are also eligible to stay in the home with their families.
The Bartlesville BSTH has the capacity to provide care to 52 families each year. GRAND plans to open additional BSTH locations in the coming years across northeastern and north central Oklahoma.
This home fundamentally changes how we care for children in our community. It allows us to provide care in a domestic context, helping families to course-correct and stay together. We hope this is just the first home of its kind and that it will inspire innovative, family-centered treatment throughout our state and country.