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Mental Health Matters
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Mental Health Law Section

December 2016, vol. 3, no. 2

Premiere mental health treatment for emerging adults

The Chicago metro area has a premiere mental health treatment facility in Evanston for emerging adults, ages 17-30. Emerging adults have brains that are still developing. They also are transitioning from childhood to adulthood, so they have a number of stressors, such as finding their identity as adults, college and/or job pressure, relationship choices, and career choices, to name a few. Most serious mental illnesses emerge during adolescence and young adulthood. Getting proper treatment early for teens and young adults saves lives, as there is a high suicide rate in this age group. Also, research shows that the longer the individual’s mental illness remains untreated, the more debilitating that condition will be long term, and the brain potentially will not develop properly.

The Yellowbrick program offers a multidisciplinary approach, that also utilizes lifestyle changes that, once learned, can be a lifetime source of relaxation and stress management, such as yoga, meditation, art therapy and visualization. They use psychiatry, psychotherapy, group therapy, medication and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation).

Yellowbrick uses cutting-edge science, such as brain imaging, EEGs, and pharmaco-genomic testing to find the best medicine to treat the condition and to measure progress. EEG diagrams, which were shown to the ISBA’s Mental Health Law Section Council last month by guest speaker, Dr. Jesse Viner, M.D., Yellowbrick’s CEO, demonstrate that the brain, after treatment, shows less scrambled and tangled brain activity. This presumably represents more rational thought in the patient.

An assessment at Yellowbrick costs $7,950. The facility asks for a 10-week commitment. Inpatient treatment runs approximately $30,000 per month, with individual psychiatric and psychotherapy sessions being extra, along with other “a la carte” treatments, such as TMS. The fees for the first 10 weeks of treatment must be paid in advance, and only a fraction of the cost might be covered by the patient’s health insurance. After the initial 10 weeks, if further treatment is necessary, the staff at Yellowbrick will determine on a case-by-case basis whether some financial assistance or fee forgiveness might be available, based upon such factors as how long the patient has worked on their recovery. The average stay in Yellowbrick’s residential program is 4-6 months, and another few months in their Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).

While this program may be a model for successfully putting the lives of mentally ill young adults back on track, it is unfortunately financially out-of-reach for most individuals and their families. When asked about this, Dr. Viner replied that without the treatment provided at Yellowbrick, these young adults might instead end up dead or disabled. From the standpoint of the family members, such as those who have taken NAMI’s Family-to-Family education class or who attend the Family-to-Family support group, this is perhaps more than a little simplistic and unfair. Of course, the family of a mentally ill young adult wants to see their child both live and have a meaningful existence, hopefully not spending the rest of their life on SSI disability. It isn’t that these families don’t want to sacrifice the more than $70,000 for 10 weeks of residential treatment at Yellowbrick for their loved one. The vast majority of families simply do not have that kind of money and also have no way to borrow that much money.

The hope is that the Yellowbrick program will provide solid evidence that their program works. It could become the “gold standard” of treatment. Dr. Viner is correct. Without proper treatment young adults, diagnosed with a serious mental illness, may end up dead or disabled. As advocates, people living with mental illness and their families need to continue to organize and put pressure on their local, state and federal government representatives to fund more mental health research, to fund more community mental health programs, modeled on the successful treatment programs of innovative and science-based programs like that at Yellowbrick, and to put pressure these same government officials to require health insurance providers, whether private or government, to cover these treatments. Our youth are our future and successful, intensive treatment should not only be available to the 1 percent who can afford to pay the high cost of excellent treatment out-of-pocket.

Susan O’Neal is a part-time Assistant Public Defender in Juvenile Court in a Peoria County and has a private practice devoted to representing persons with disabilities.  She is also certified to teach and does teach the NAMI Family-to-Family class.