Local children’s psychiatric hospital affected by pandemic

BY AMARI ANGRAM-BOLDIN

Regular residents of Hays were not the only lives affected by the drastic changes from the COVID-19 pandemic. The children at KVC Hospitals have had to adjust to this new lifestyle.

The hospital has 36 children in treatment in their psychiatric residential treatment facility. Those children lost out on the things they looked forward to doing outside of treatment, such as trips to the library, recreational time at the park, and most importantly, in-person family visits.

Prior to the pandemic, the children were allowed two types of family visits, passes, and on-unit visits. With a pass, a child is allowed a certain amount of time approved by their therapist. A pass allows the child to do activities, outside of the hospital, with their guardians. During on-unit visits, the child is allowed a certain amount of time with their families in one of the hospital’s visitation rooms. However, these visits have ceased in the last two months.

Since in-person family time has been stopped, the children have been getting weekly Zoom meetings with families. However, according to staff, virtual meetings aren’t the same as seeing family face-to-face.

“The kiddos complain that the new meetings are nothing like the real thing,” said Behavioral Health Tech Holly Milburn.

Aside from losing family time, the children have lost their favorite outing destinations as well.

“Treatment is normally pretty serious, so outing time gives kids the opportunity to tone down and just be kids,” said Kristen Osborne, the hospital milieu manager.

Osborne said when places like Hays Recreation Center, Hays Public Library and Humane Society of the High Plains closed, the children were devastated. The blow got even bigger when all the parks in town were closed.

“Staff had to get innovative in creating fun activities to keep the kids entertained and active,” said Kylie Sherlock, a behavioral health technician at KVC. “It was very hard for the children to understand and accept what was going on.”

The last of the big changes took place in the educational department. The children are on a virtual curriculum and lost teachers and paraprofessionals who were in their classrooms. Staff said the loss of the people in those positions has brought a lack of motivation for the children to focus on their schoolwork and finish the school year strong without the assistance.

“This pandemic is hard to get through being stuck at home. But with the current situation,

it’s even harder under some of the circumstances these children are facing. The children are adapting better with time,” Osborne said.

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