Eating disorder programs combine, offer more services

Two Twin Cities eating disorder programs combined to provide more patients with high-quality services last month, but it came at a cost. Since the two programs came together, some patients now have to wait longer to see a specialist. The Services for Teenagers at Risk, or STAR Center , which was located at the McNamara Alumni Center , moved to St. Paul to combine with The Emily Program , where more services are offered to treat eating disorders. Boynton Health Service offers a small support group, but people with severe eating disorders are typically referred to clinics like the Emily Program. Christine Twait , a nutritionist at Boynton, said she has had a number of patients come in this year because they have had to wait several months to see a nutritionist at the Emily Program. âÄúThatâÄôs a really long time when someone is struggling with disordered eating,âÄù Twait said. She said sheâÄôs seen an increase in patients from last year. The Emily Program has six locations in Minnesota, but the St. Paul location is the only one a University of Minnesota student can conveniently commute to without a car. Twait said this means the patients from the STAR clinic now have to compete with the people who were already going to the Emily Program for services. âÄúI think thatâÄôs probably why there is such a log jam there right now,âÄù she said. Director of Program Development for The Emily Program Jillian Croll said theyâÄôre located only five blocks from a Campus Connector stop, which makes it easy for students to get there. Croll said the program has hired 25 new employees in the past year to help the St. Paul and St. Louis Park locations deal with the long waiting lists. Croll said the last 10 years have seen a rise in eating disorders across the country. âÄúThe minute you set foot on a college campus you have higher rates of eating disorders than anywhere else,âÄù she said. Former interim STAR clinic coordinator Diane Rubright said she continually felt the need to coordinate with other organizations that provide eating disorder resources when her clinic was still running. She said they often referred students to The Emily Program for services STAR did not offer. Rubright said STAR proposed combining their clinic with The Emily Program and 90 percent of their patients and most of the staff made the transfer. Croll said the Emily Program offers many services that STAR did not, including specific focus groups and intensive out-patient, day and residential programs. Julie Huiras , 26, had an eating disorder since the age of 8, but went undiagnosed until she was 20. She tried a residential treatment program in Milwaukee, but it was unsuccessful. Then she tried the intensive day program from Nov. 2007 to Jan. 2008 at the Emily Program and it changed her life, she said. âÄúIt was more of a life changer for me in that I was able to be more independent and self-sufficient and responsible for my own doings, rather than having somebody monitor me 24/7,âÄù Huiras said. She now considers herself fully recovered. Twait said she agrees that the Emily Program has more comprehensive services than the STAR Center had. However, sheâÄôs not sure that makes up for the extensive waiting period for people who need their services. âÄúIâÄôm not sure how relevant that is, that (better services) are available, if people canâÄôt access them,âÄù Twait said.