Help for girls with eating disorders opening in Naperville
A facility to help adolescent girls address eating disorders before they suffer long-term consequences is set to open early this month in Naperville.
Clementine Naperville is an affiliate of the Monte Nido program with capacity for eight patients ages 11 to 17.
With 24/7 nursing and a team of doctors, therapists, dietitians, recovery coaches, psychiatrists and activity leaders, the residential facility will help patients normalize their relationship with food, cope with the root cause of their disordered eating and develop healthy behaviors, said Dr. Joel Jahraus, chief medical officer for Monte Nido and an eating disorders specialist.
It may appear that food is the problem for a preteen or teenager who is starving herself, purging after eating, binge eating or exercising obsessively, Jahraus said. But often underlying her unhealthy food-related behaviors is trauma, molestation or bullying, he said.
Girls do not like to stand out physically, which can be challenging for those who reach puberty earlier than others, Jahraus said. But preteens or teenagers who severely restrict their caloric intake can put themselves at risk for stunted growth and development.
"It's considered an emergency in kids," he said.
Eating disorders rank as the third-most common illness among adolescent females, according to an article in Pediatrics & Child Health, and they affect roughly 2.7% of all adolescents, according to the National Institutes of Health. Despite their prevalence, eating disorders are a lonely condition for young people.
"The way starvation works in particular with an individual is it creates isolation," Jahraus said. "They sit up in their room and prefer not to get into anything that involves eating with others."
Clementine Naperville will use frequent therapy and direction and education about food choices to help patients begin recovery. The facility also will weave in academic and family support to increase chances of sustained healing.
The facility will follow COVID-19-related guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jahraus said staff members have their temperature taken before entering the building and are questioned for any potential COVID-19 exposure. Inside, they wear masks and protective gear.
Visitors are not allowed inside, so family therapy takes place virtually or in the yard.
"Families have not hesitated to bring in their loved ones because it's deemed to be safe place to be," Jahraus said.
Patients at Clementine Naperville typically stay between 30 and 50 days -- a slightly shorter time than adults usually spend in a residential eating disorders facility, such as Monte Nido Chicago, which opened earlier this year in Winfield.