On June 10th, Grafton’s new psychiatric residential treatment center in Cold Spring, Minnesota, welcomed its first resident: a 10-year-old girl. “She was a doll. Cute as a button,” says Angela Marker, Program Manager at Loudoun County Youth Shelter, who spent over a week getting the Minnesota staff get ready to serve their first client. Tony Sanders, COO of Facility-Based Programs, was also there to ensure a smooth opening.
“It was great timing, and it went off without a hitch,” says Angela. “She was a great first client for the staff. All their efforts went directly to serving her. They were able to plan the activities, get to know her, and learn the schedule.”
The center has 23 fully trained staff thus far, including five nurses, multiple clinicians, and 11 mental health technicians (MHTs), which are the Minnesota equivalent of direct support professionals (DSPs). The program is designed to provide youth (ages 8-18) with education, life skills, and a range of therapy services.
The Minnesota team is looking forward to taking residents on outings in nearby Cold Spring—a quaint little town surrounded by farmland. Tony and other Grafton employees have already met with the local police and business owners to let them know that children with special needs will be visiting their community. “Everybody was so welcoming to the program and to Grafton,” says Angela.
After months of remodeling, the newly opened campus features housing for up to 30 children, an outdoor play area, game room, offices, and classrooms. Madison Scheierl, an evening MHT and college student majoring in Art Education, has been adding decorations throughout the building to make the space more inviting for incoming clients. She painted Mario and Pacman figures on the walls of the game room and added a big tree to the foyer wall, where kids can add their handprints like leaves.
Shortly after their first client arrived, staff took her to the sensory room, and everyone took turns flopping on a giant crash pad. “Although it knocked me for a loop, it was fun being a kid again, for that moment,” says Angela.
To make the girl feel at home, the team called her referral source to ask about her likes and dislikes, which helped Angela pick out the perfect room décor from Walmart. That evening, Angela and two MHTs, Sam and Hally, helped the 10-year-old decorate her new bedroom with butterflies and wall stickers of her favorite video game character, Princess Toadstool.
“She was very excited, but later that night she told me that she missed her mom,” says Angela. The girl asked Angela to stay in her room until she fell asleep, which she did. “I ended up laying on the floor, with the door cracked and a noisemaker on. We talked about farm animals, since I live on a farm. So, we were counting goats to fall asleep.”
Two more clients have arrived since June, and the center is on track to keep growing. “It’s a beautiful program,” says Angela. “I can’t wait to go back.”