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Reaching out in Gladstone

Northwest Behavorial Services treats young people, offers parents a way to help
by: Ellen Spitaleri, Gladstone Police Chief Frank stands on the newly completed path at Dahl Beach. He is heading up a Town Hall presentation on troubled youth on April 6.

Gladstone police chief Frank Grace has worked with plenty of treatment centers while working with probation officers during his years in law enforcement; and Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services, he said, is 'at the top of the list.'

Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services opened in 2001 as 'a 50-bed, co-ed, residential treatment facility for young people with co-occurring disorders, including drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues and eating disorders,' said Daniel A. Mahler, executive director of the Gladstone facility.

Because administrators at the treatment center are keenly aware of community involvement, they have an advisory board that meets quarterly, noted Kristine A. Bella, community liaison director.

Grace is a member of that board, along with Gladstone Fire Marshal Mike Funk, a representative from the school district and three neighbors.

At the same time, Bella is a member of the Gladstone Youth at Risk Task Force that Grace put together three years ago, and a sub-committee of that group is organizing a Town Hall on April 6, that will allow interested members of the community to come ask questions about problems they see in Gladstone. (See sidebar)

Treatment center fills a need

The facility is necessary, Grace said, because 'there may be parents out there scratching their heads and asking themselves, 'Does my child have a problem?' Parents live in a world of denial - and the treatment center offers parents an avenue' to help their children, that they might otherwise not have.

For Grace, the best thing about Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services is the fact that they offer free drug and alcohol assessments for middle and high school students.

Mahler explained that the tests are given for free to 'kids who have been identified by the school districts and they can't return to school until the tests are done. They usually cost about $200 at a private facility.'

Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services offers this service, because, Mahler said, 'we're in a neighborhood and a community and we want to be a good neighbor and share services.'

The facility is also unique, Mahler added, in that it is locally owned, so all decisions are handled from within so they 'can make changes quickly.'

Assessments and structure

When clients arrive at the treatment facility, Bella said, within the first 24 hours, they are given 'a comprehensive evaluation, including a psychiatric and detoxification evaluation, physical history, a drug and alcohol assessment, and recreation, nursing and schooling assessments.

'We also gather information from the family, and within five days an individualized treatment plan is in place. This is extremely valuable for the family.'

Patients are then 'integrated into groups for counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, and education. They meet their therapist, psychiatrist and nurses,' Mahler said.

The young people are kept busy from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mahler added, saying that they are 'involved in group, individual and family therapy.'

There is an alternative school on-site for patients.

'It is important for kids to keep up in school, so we provide an education experience while they are here,' Mahler said, while Bella added, 'It's highly individualized and health education is a huge piece.'

Families involved

'We work with the families to make sure that they are doing what they're supposed to be doing, and we all agree on a discharge plan and outpatient appointment dates,' Mahler said.

Parent support groups meet weekly, Mahler added, 'to give parents an opportunity to share with each other. We educate them on what their child is going through and tell them what their child is learning so they can take that learning home.'

The average stay at the facility is 30 to 45 days, and parents and clients are given a 'relapse prevention plan and a home-living agreement to take with them' when patients leave, Bella said.

'We provide education for parents and clients, but it's not a magic wand, they have to keep working,' she added.

Mahler noted that '96 percent of parents' said they'd recommend the treatment center to others, and '92 percent of clients' said they had improved by their date of discharge.

Community outreach

Mahler said he is proud that Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services has national accreditation, a highly experienced staff and that the organization provides some scholarships for treatment.

He said that interested members of the public can donate to Save-A-Teen, a non-profit that pays for scholarships and outpatient treatments at a variety of facilities, including Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services.

'We go to resource fairs and career fairs in the community,' Mahler said, and Bella noted, 'We talk to Health classes and serve as consultants for senior projects' at area high schools.

She added, 'We want to maintain an active involvement in the community, making sure that youth in Gladstone get their needs met.'

Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services is located at 18000 SE Webster Road in Gladstone, and can be reached at 503-722-4470. Visit the Web site at: www.northwestbhs.com

City forum to address youth problems

Citizens of Gladstone who are interested in asking questions about issues in the city are urged to come to 'Start Talking,' a Town Hall-style meeting on Sunday, April 6, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Union Hall, located at 555 E First St. in Gladstone. The site is adjacent to the Gladstone DMV.

It is being presented by the Gladstone Coalition for a Drug-Free Community, a sub-committee of the Gladstone Youth at Risk Task Force.

In attendance will be members of the Gladstone Police Department, the Clackamas County Juvenile Department, the Clackamas County Youth Gang Task Force, Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and community members, among others.

Issues to be addressed include underage drinking, substance abuse and gang activity.

Frank Grace, Gladstone police chief, said the Gladstone Youth at Risk Task Force came into being three years ago, 'when Bob Stewart, the Gladstone School District superintendent, called me about the results of an alcohol, drug, and tobacco and sex survey.'

The two men were concerned about the survey results, and decided to form a task force to consider adolescent behavior in Gladstone.

'We have 23 to 30 members and we meet once a month, on every fourth Monday - we've had people meeting for three years,' Grace said.

The group welcomes new members and encourages concerned citizens to attend the meetings and ask questions.

The task force brings in speakers who address issues like Internet abuse, gang behavior, graffiti, drinking and meth abuse, he said.

The sub-committee idea came about so that that group could apply for grants to stage town halls and hire facilitators.

Grace added, 'Our purpose is to educate parents and children about the dangers of substance abuse - it's a great resource for the community.'

To find out more about the town hall, call Frank Grace at 503-557-2765 or e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.