JANESVILLE—When Mackenzie’s 13-year-old son, Johnathan, told her he was thinking about harming himself, she knew he needed help quickly.

Johnathan has lived with anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder since he was in fourth or fifth grade, his mom said. But things got worse once he became a teenager.

When Johnathan was in seventh grade, his mental health issues became more severe. He had just transitioned from a small school into the much larger Janesville School District. A lot was changing for him, and he didn’t know the right way to handle it, said Mackenzie, whose name—like her son's—has been changed to protect their privacy.

He started showing more anger at home and had trouble in school, Mackenzie said. He was unhappy to the point of seeming lost.

Mackenzie reached out to a Mercyhealth counselor, who referred Johnathan to the Mercyhealth Child and Adolescent Day Treatment Program.

The program, which has treated 928 patients ages 5-17 since it started in 2006, has experienced changes of its own. It recently moved from East Court Street to a 10,000-square-foot facility at 2600 Humes Road near Shopko.

An open house is planned Wednesday, July 19.

The program offers treatment for a range of issues, including impulsiveness, tantrums, aggression, social withdrawal, self-harm, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate and substance abuse, said Trish Reed, media and public relations specialist for Mercyhealth.

The new facility is twice the size of the former, said Belinda Wellnitz, program manager. More space is necessary to accommodate a growing number of referrals, especially from schools, she said.

“I think schools, pediatricians, being more proactive in early intervention has increased awareness,” Wellnitz said. “I think schools and pediatricians try for that early intervention in order for the children to succeed and get on a good path.”

Patients can refer themselves or be referred by school counselors, pediatricians, outpatient therapists or other professionals, Reed said.

With more space, Mercyhealth also hopes to add more Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse programs, Wellnitz said.

Johnathan spent a month in the program. He attended sessions for three hours in the morning and then returned to school for the rest of the day, his mom said.

Today, he is a full-time student and is happier and more confident, she said.

Dealing with mental health issues is like fighting an uphill battle, Mackenzie said. She understands that not every child may take to the program as well as Johnathan did, but she recommends that families try it if they think something is wrong.

“I think if you hear something that alarms you and is something completely out of character, I wouldn’t wait to get help,” Mackenzie said. “By waiting, you might cause considerable harm."

Reporter - Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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