The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

January 31, 2013

New treatment center tells teens: ‘You are safe here’

ANDERSON, Ind. — Misty Rees knows from personal experience how hard it is to recover from an eating disorder.

From her battle with anorexia, Rees remembers one physician who went above and beyond — “He saw me as a person, not just a patient,” she said. “And I’ve really kept that with me.”

Seven years ago, Rees founded Anderson’s Selah House, Indiana’s only specialized inpatient facility offering counseling for women with anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders.

Thursday, Selah House had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its second residential facility in Anderson, this time dedicated to girls ages 13 to 17.

Patients stay at Selah for a minimum of eight weeks. Some come from central Indiana and border states like Kentucky and Ohio, while others come from as far away as Canada and Germany.

Amos Taylor, Selah’s CEO, said it speaks well of the quality of care, since “People have to be willing to move their daughters 3,000 miles from home and trust them to complete strangers.”

And it “bodes well for the city that we have such fine resources here,” Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said at the ceremony. “We can play a part in people’s lives, not only just here in central Indiana, but really across the nation.”

The new 12-bed center isn’t the sterile, institutional environment some might envision for medical care.

Visitors cross a covered bridge before pulling up to the large, secluded lake-front cabin.

Rooms are fashionable, and motivational notes — written by patients at the adult center — line the teens’ bathroom mirrors: “Don’t let your mind bully your body,” “You are safe here,” “Live every moment.”  

The Selah staff, including dietitians, therapists and others, often come to work in jeans and sneakers.  

“We want them (the patients) to feel comfortable,” said marketing director Rhonda Fowler. “We’re not judging them. It helps them open up.”

According to a National Eating Disorders Association report, a minority of adolescents with eating disorders (3 to 28 percent) had spoken with a professional specifically about their eating or weight problems.

But “early intervention and prevention is crucial,” the Association said, especially considering the high crude mortality rates in its study for those with anorexia nervosa (4 percent), bulimia nervosa (3.9 percent) and other unspecified eating disorders (5.2 percent).

“These are girls (and) families who are broken; this is their last place,” Taylor said. “They need to be here.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, on Twitter @BayleeNPulliam or call 648-4250.

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