The Summit Eating Disorders and Outreach Program (SEDOP), a nationally recognized health organization, met with physicians from the Student Health Center and members of the Student Counseling Center to discuss new ways to expand their outreach opportunities October 25.
The Sacramento-based organization, which provides free assessments and individualized care for patients suffering from eating disorders, hopes to make their services more accessible to students at UC Davis.
Jennifer Lombardi, a treatment specialist with SEDOP and eating disorder survivor, led the presentation on campus. After recovering from anorexia 19 years ago, Lombardi dedicated herself to providing the care to others she wished was available to her.
“One of the reasons I was able to recover was that I was very motivated to provide care to others,” she said. “There were extremely limited resources in my time.”
SEDOP aims to help people experience the “freedom of recovery” and to encourage prevention, treatment and understanding of eating disorders, according to the SEDOP website.
“Since an eating disorder is multi-dimensional, the treatment needs to be as well,” the website states.
SEDOP offers three levels of treatment and free evaluations to people of any age group. The first level of treatment, targeted for the most severe cases, is partial hospitalization. Patients are relocated to Summit Hospital in Sacramento, where round-the-clock treatment is provided by a team which includes a physician, psychiatrist, nurse, dietitian, physical therapist and a variety of other support group members.
The second level, known as the Intensive Outpatient Program, takes place three nights a week at the SEDOP facility itself. Patients receive individual counseling and consult with a dietitian and several support groups.
The third level, as Lombardi described, is a traditional group therapy program with outpatient services.
While there are only three levels offered with the SEDOP in Sacramento, a parent company based in Denver, Colorado offers even higher levels of treatment for the most medically compromised patients. No program is set in stone, as each patient receives treatment specifically based on their needs.
“We take great pride individualizing the plans,” she said.
One of the new issues raised in the presentation was providing transportation to students from the UC Davis campus to the Sacramento-based outpatient facility.
“We discussed new ways to come into Davis, because we understand in essence that there is a transportation issue, especially with the new students not being able to have cars,” Lombardi said.
Lisa Peterson, the clinical director with SEDOP who previously worked with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) from 2000 to 2005, was also present at the meeting. She agrees that the transportation issue is a disconnect between students and the Sacramento-based program.
“[For patients] in Partial Hospitalization, I think it would be really hard to stay in school and do 11 hours of learning,” she said. “At that stage it becomes impossible, so we encourage them to live local. The Intensive Outpatient Program, historically, has seen the issue. We encourage students to use public transportation … etc.”
While SEDOP offers free assessments to anyone, the lack of transportation also proves challenging.
“We used to do assessments there in town, for free on Fridays, in a psychologist’s office downtown,” she said. “We’ve been talking to the University and a therapist in the community that’s potentially offering that service again. We wouldn’t necessarily have to come [to Davis]. We’ve been talking with CAPS and other healthcare providers for the need to resume that.”
Peterson said the lack of awareness about such services was what led to their cancellation after only a two-year run. However, the recent expansion in outreach from SEDOP has given her faith that if revived, they will not be underutilized again.
Peterson and Lombardi recently attended an outreach dinner with various community and university providers.
“We worked a dinner with individuals who worked in the area, who could meet us so we could work more collaboratively. We’re really focusing on outpatient relationships,” Peterson said.
Because of the high risk of relapse after completing a program, Peterson hopes to transition patients smoothly into daily life and continue care through other means.
“We’re trying to get them back into their daily routine, and still attending treatment with an outpatient program. There is a period of time where were trying to have overlap between SEDOP and communities. There is a lot of relapse, I think, because they get connected with our staff and we’re trying to get them connected to staff in their own communities.”
Patients as old as 67 and as young as 7 have all completed a program with SEDOP, according to Lombardi.
This shift in the age distribution, Lombardi feels, is now affecting younger students more than ever.
“I’m seeing younger and younger patients — more sixth, seventh and eighth graders than we’ve had in past years combined,” she said.
College students, she feels, are particularly affected by two distinct factors.
“The first [factor] is that students are waiting longer and longer to access treatment,” she said. “So, when they come in, they are already more medically compromised and at a higher risk. The economy can certainly contribute, but mostly it’s that students with eating disorders tend to be very driven. So if they can function and continue to do well academically, they’re going to push that envelope in waiting.”
“The second [factor] is the exposure to dieting at younger ages. I have a daughter who is 11, and I already hear chatter in the fourth and fifth grade kids who are already discussing weight loss.”
Lombardi encourages students to find help as quickly as possible. “I would say to [students with eating disorders], that there’s no shame in acknowledging that you are struggling. There has to be a part of you that recognizes that coping isn’t working. At the least, get an assessment from someone who is truly understanding.”ADAM KHAN can be reached at email@example.com.