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Winona Health launches mental health program to deliver advanced therapy interventions

Starting Wednesday, the Intensive Outpatient Program helps adults who are struggling with their mental health but don't need 24-hour inpatient care.

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From left to right, counselor Kattie Tibbs, behavioral health therapist Beth Martinka and registered nurse Paula Philipps staff Winona Health's new Intensive Outpatient Program for mental and behavioral health.
Contributed / Winona Health

WINONA, Minn. — A new option for mental and behavioral health care has arrived in Bluff Country.

On Wednesday, Winona Health launched its Intensive Outpatient Program for mental health care. It's a treatment program for patients who need more care beyond their regular therapy appointments but not to the point where they would need to stay at a 24-hour inpatient facility.

"Mental health has really been something that our community has really needed, just beefing (it) up in every area," said Kattie Tibbs, IOP mental health counselor. "IOP just meets the need between the hospital and outpatient level."

Similar mental health care formats exist in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but Winona Health's IOP is the first in the Winona area.

"We're kind of a unique little area where it feels pretty rural, but there's a lot of small towns and this (Winona) is a decent-sized town so, here, there really isn't anything like it," said Beth Martinka, IOP behavioral health therapist.


Martinka, Tibbs and registered nurse Paula Philipps have spent the past several days readying for the program's first patients. People who could benefit from the program, Tibbs said, are those who are experiencing impairments at home, work, school or in the community due to their mental health.

"Maybe you meet with your individual therapist once a week, every other week," Tibbs said. "But you're still struggling to function in the workplace. Maybe you're having panic attacks or periods of depression where attendance is now an issue."

Prospective patients can be referred into the program by their mental health provider, guardian or a loved one. From there, Tibbs and Martinka will meet with patients individually to ensure that the IOP is the best option for them.

"Once they get through that process of intake, they'll see our nurse to make sure that (with) health, everything is on track there," Tibbs said. "They will go on to see a psychiatrist, and they'll be following up with the psychiatrist here at Winona Health every month. The psychiatrist is who puts in the final orders of admitting them into the program."

While every patient's plan in the IOP is individualized for their needs, the providers expect that patients will spend six to 12 weeks attending in-person group and individual therapy sessions throughout the week. Tibbs said each group therapy cohort is capped at 12 people, and they meet for three one-hour sessions during the week.

Group therapy is important, Martinka said, because it can help providers see how a patient's mental health is impacting their lives in ways that can't be observed in one-on-one therapy visits.

"Often some of the bigger behaviors or struggles come out in different ways, and that gives us an opportunity to process it in the group," Martinka said. "We get to see more of the interactions that are struggles and work through it in that group with people that you know. Once that trust is built, being able to see and hear the feedback from other people, I think, is really helpful."

Martinka added that patients' plans can also include medication and other types of therapy, such as family counseling.


Beyond therapy sessions, Tibbs said IOP staff will also help patients connect with other community resources they might need.

"We're preventing some of those things that we often see with folks who can't really focus on their mental health because they don't have stable housing, they struggle with food insecurity," Tibbs said. "These things that can be met in addition to therapy, and that's the IOP model."

More information about the program and how to obtain a referral can be found on Winona Health's website .

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's health care reporter. She previously covered the Southeast Minnesota region for the Post Bulletin. Dené's a graduate of Kansas State University, where she cut her teeth working for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and the student radio station, Wildcat 91.9. Readers can reach Dené at 507-281-7488 and ddryden@postbulletin.com.
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