The children we serve certainly are much more than numbers, but it is helpful to review an annual summary of information regarding the scope, breadth and depth of services Northwood provides.
For yet another year, more children and youth were served in 2017 than any before – 824 in ourresidential and day treatment programs, and another 214 children and families received services through the Northwood outpatient programs. The focus of our care continues to be northeastern Minnesota. 82% of the kids we served were from St. Louis, Carlton or Itasca counties. We serve about an equal number of students in the day treatment and residential programs, and continue to serve more boys than girls at about a 70-30 ratio. The average age of all the children we serve is 11 years. The length of stay in the residential and day treatment programs is remarkably consistent at 10 months.
We serve a wide diversity of children and youth in our programs. Half identify as Caucasian. The largest minority group we serve continues to be Native American, followed by African American students and those identifying themselves as coming from a mixed race background. All of the students served by Northwood programs have a mental health diagnosis, and the most frequently occurring diagnoses are Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Disruptive Behavior Disorder and Dysthymic Disorder (depression).
Again, parents, guardians and referring workers were very satisfied with services provided, with a rating of a little over 5 on a 6-point scale on quarterly satisfaction surveys. They are most pleased with the level of support, recreational opportunities, the staff’s focus on their child’s needs, strengths and education, our approach to understanding and meeting their child’s mental health needs, our respect for the child’s rights and our facilitation of family visits and contact. The kids were a bit more critical, to the tune of about a half a rating point. They rated the food (amazing), therapy and the sense of safety provided to them as the most positive aspects of care.
It was another busy and productive year. Northwood offers the most complete continuum of care of intensive mental health treatment programs in the state, allowing us to provide exactly the right service at the right time. Utilization of our programs remained strong, resulting in positive financial performance. We are almost ready to launch our newest level of service on the continuum – the Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Facility. Our West campus will be devoted to this new, more intensive level of care. In preparation, we have been working closely with the State of Minnesota to revise our operating procedures to align with the stringent standards of care. We have hired over a dozen new staff members, including seven nurses. Last minute details are being worked out, and we anticipate admitting our first student any day now.
Lots of other highlights – the loan repayment program (a staff retention tool) was a smash hit. Thirty staff receive a monthly stipend paid toward their student loans. We received the prestigious “Provider of the Year Award” from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The award recognizes an organization that provides mental health services that demonstrate excellence, respect and best practices. When introducing the award, Sue Abderholden, NAMI’s Executive Director, commented, “Northwood has done incredible work around children’s mental health. The organization offers a variety of programs with a focus on resiliency, but also respect and compassion. Every time I have visited I have been impressed with how caring the staff is and the variety of ways they work to engage the children and youth. Northwood is about changing lives.”
Of course, the most important work goes on every day with every child we serve. Last September, Charlie Appelstein, a renowned author and soughtafter national presenter, conducted a workshop for Northwood staff. Charlie has a unique and compelling way to deliver his message about compassion for the kids. He reminded us of the shattering experiences many of our students have endured, and how none of us could watch even five minutes of a video depicting the trauma in their lives. It would be unbearable.
It’s not easy, this complicated process of building brighter futures for children, youth and their families. It is an awesome responsibility. Good thing we have so many dedicated and skilled people on the job! I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board for their service and the staff for their committed efforts each day. A special thank you to our generous donors for their support, as well. There is no more important work in this world to be done, and what we do is transformational.
President & CEO