Residential eating disorder treatment center to open in Pittsford
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – In a neighborhood in Pittsford, a new eating disorder treatment facility is under construction. It’s run by Healing Connections, a local nonprofit, and the University of Rochester medical center.
Once it opens next summer, it will be the only residential program within five hours of the Rochester area. Supporters say having a center close to home is vital for recovery, especially when one in ten people will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.
“I was diagnosed at the age of 12 and was privileged enough to receive care from all the centers in upstate new York – except for residential. Every time that I had to leave home to seek care, it caused disharmony and anxiety and fear not only in myself but in my family,” Alyssa Morales, who has been in recovery from an eating disorder for years, said.
The new center will fit ten young people at a time, who will live there for at least a month. They’ll attend group therapy, art therapy, and yoga and movement-based activities, with a whole host of medical professionals on site 24/7. For many patients, having a residential center close to home means they can keep their current treatment teams.
“I truly believe that the lifetime of my eating disorder – or the struggle with it – would have been greatly reduced if I had access to residential treatment at home,” Morales said. “There was always this feeling of security and like the biggest exhale when I was coming home from residential treatment, and back into the hands of [my] team.”
Her mother, Michelle Morales, said that sending her daughter away at the age of twelve was terrifying. She said that a local center means that families can stay together, and stay involved in their child or teen’s recovery process.
“Please think about that. If your loved one had to – your young child had to go out of state to receive treatment, what that would mean to you?” she said. “This doesn’t mean that I can fgo with her and stay with her in a hospital room. This means that I need to take my child and leave her at a place where I don’t know the staff, I don’t know the people, I have no history with them. It is the scariest thing that can happen to a family.”
But some families don’t get that opportunity. John and Linda Mazur – who helped secure funding for the new facility – lost their daughter Emilee at the age of 35 to anorexia. She was diagnosed ten years prior, but couldn’t get access to treatment.
“She reached out for treatment when she knew that there wasn’t enough care here,” John said.
But after only a few days in a residential program, Emilee’s insurance declined to pay, stating that Emilee wasn’t sick enough — or underweight enough — to warrant any kind of care.
“Eating disorders are not respected. They’re not a respected illness,” Linda said.
Eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of any mental health issue — second to opioid addictions.
“Oftentimes the seeds of eating disorder start in adolescence, and it’s so important for people to get the care that they need and for families to stay together,” Linda said. “There’s so much shame and stigma that surround people with eating disorders, and by the time loved ones find out what’s going on, it’s been going on for quite a while, and it’s usually pretty ingrained, in the person or in the child.”
Organizers said the center is two-thirds of the way funded, and still needs about $500,000 to open.
“It takes a while to get better and it takes […] a full plate of comprehensive care and connection. And we lost our daughter, we lost our precious beautiful daughter. And we don’t want anybody else to go through that,” Linda said. “There should be no shame and stigma with any mental illness they affect very family every family has somebody struggling with something at some time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and an eating disorder is no exception.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. Reach out to The Healing Connection at 585-641-0281 or by email at info@TheHealingConnectionInc.org. [theemileeconnection]The Emilee Connection, founded by Emilee Mazur’s parents, also provides peer support for adults in the greater Rochester area.