One of the driving forces behind Denver’s growing reputation as a hot spot for cutting edge eating disorder treatment has to be Dr. Ken Weiner, MD. Dr. Weiner has been treating eating disorders here for over 25 years, and is a founding partner of the Eating Recovery Center, which offers intensive inpatient, residential and outpatient treatment for both adults and adolescents. The ERC has grown from a 12 bed facility with 40 employees in October 2008 to 46 beds and 235 employees in lated 2011, with locations in Lowry and downtown Denver.
I spoke with Dr. Weiner about his work, and the ERC recently, and posed the question “How does a person decide that an intensive program like this is right for them?“
Weiner: About 85% of eating disordered people do well with multi-disciplinary outpatient treatment. The other 15%, who are not responding to that need a higher level of care. Usually the patient is the driving force looking for more care, yet may still be ambivalent. The ERC offers free assessment to help with the decision.
Examiner: What is the prognosis for recovery from an eating disorder like anorexia?
Weiner: The cure rate for anorexia is over 80%, but it could take 7-10 years. Brain maturation from teen years to mid-20’s helps the recovery process. I’m more optimistic about the outcomes, but still some patients can’t be fixed (Dr. Weiner noted elsewhere that eating disorders have the highest fatality rate of all psychiatric illnesses).
Examiner: What has changed about treatment in the past 10 years?
Weiner: The biggest shift has been the focus on genetics, and the realization that eating disorders may be as heritiable as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Research using neuroimaging opens up some exciting possibilities for understanding what happens in the brain in eating disordered people.
Examiner: What are some unique aspects of the ERC?
Weiner: The ERC is licensed as a psychiatric hospital focused on eating disorders. It’s vertically integrated with inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization and outpatient programs. Acute patients (medically compromised) are cared for at Denver Health. Our staff represents some of the national thought leaders in eating disorders, with 120 years of combined experience in the field.
Examiner: Does the ERC accept male patients?
Weiner: Yes. Males represent about 10-15% of cases. Treatment for boys or men is not dissimilar from that for girls or women. There is a stigma surrounding this illness for boys, and the problem may not be identified as quickly as for girls. Boys tend to weight-restore more quickly and more successfully compared to girls.
Examiner: What are some other ERC protocols?
Weiner: Patients are put on omega-3 supplements to support brain function, but we are not big on using other supplements. Meals are prepared and served to patients at the facility, but we do not offer vegan food (note: it’s common for people with eating disorders to progressively restrict food choices, going from a mixed diet to vegetarian to vegan to even more restrictions, such as gluten-free vegan; facilitating restrictive food behaviors would not be conducive to good treatment outcomes).
Eating disorder treatment is a growth business, and the ERC treats patients from around the globe. The website has plenty of helpful information for prospective patients and families to help guide you through the decision-making and admissions process.
My interview with Dr. Weiner’s founding partner, Dr. Emmett Bishop MD, is here.