Partner Spotlight: Redleaf Center
Interviewee: Gretchen Buchanan- Senior Researcher
Interviewer: Madeline Wilson- Eden Prairie High School Intern
My title is a senior researcher at the Hennepin Healthcare System. Primarily supporting the Redleaf Center, although I have also been advising some other projects in other parts of the system as well. Focusing on really doing evaluation and then prospective implementation of improving services and improving the way people can access mental health services for the perinatal population. Looking at what we have in place currently, is it working? Are there things that we need to be doing differently? Looking at the larger scale of Hennepin Healthcare as a whole and the patient population that it serves, are there people that we’re missing? Are people having a hard time accessing these perinatal services? What can we do about it? It’s a quality improvement position with research layered on top of it.
We started in 1999. Doctor Helen Kim is the founding director, and she initially started The Hennepin Women’s Mental Health Program. She ran that with some colleagues for a long time in the Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry Service. In 2013, they founded the Mother-Baby Day Hospital, which is a partial hospitalization program. It’s about 20 hours a week for about 3 to 4 weeks for women who are pregnant through postpartum, even parenting up to age five. The Mother-Baby Day hospital is really for people who either have severe mental health symptoms or are experiencing a lot of them, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or, postpartum depression, or postpartum psychosis. It’s about helping them through those symptoms. But then also a huge part of it is building attachment capabilities contributing to bonding and supporting a kind of holistic person. They have a yoga time. They have a pelvic floor physical therapist come in and they do some occupational therapy as well. So it’s kind of like trying to get at how we can help you not only just get through the worst of your symptoms, but how can we set you up for success and parenting moving forward? There’s also an intensive outpatient program called the Perinatal Outpatient Program that’s six hours a week, three days a week. Two hours in those days, that is hybrid. They also have some outpatient services that are mostly for people who are stepping down from the more intensive services. We also have the family support team, which is some of the therapists who go into the pediatrics department in the pediatrics clinic and support families.
Our goal is around centering intergenerational healing. It’s trying to go beyond just symptom management and looking at the root causes or the root contributing factors to people’s mental health distress. Looking at things like parental trauma, childhood trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and toxic stress. We see patients as whole people and everything that they bring with them. We identify where they’ve struggled for a long time while helping them build a foundation for being able to be more successful moving forward.
The family support team is really helpful as an outreach and the clinicians here would like to be able to do more outreach and do more equity evaluations and get a sense of how we can reach people that maybe we aren’t reaching right now. We are looking at partnering with the addiction medicine department and developing some programming for pregnant and parenting people with substance use disorders. We’re going to be starting with opioid use disorder, but also alcohol and stimulants as well. We’re looking at developing programming around that. This fall, we’ll be doing a 360 needs and assets evaluation from staff, patients, and partner organizations in the area to get a sense of what’s here, what’s missing, and what we can do better. Looking at what we can do differently for that population and help them build some programming around that as well as increase their care coordination. So hopefully this year that’ll be in the works.
From my perspective as a researcher, Doctor Kim and Doctor Cutts are also the co-directors here, and they’re primarily clinicians. They’re not primarily researchers but do have a significant research project that they’ve been in charge of for a long time, the Children’s Health Watch. They wanted to bring someone in who has a lot of research knowledge and can bring the services that are provided here. For example, making, evaluating, and improving them, but also networking and thinking about impact beyond the individual patients that we’re serving here. Thinking about how we can use the data that’s here and the knowledge that’s here to inform policy at the local, state, and national levels. How can we have an impact on a local and national level for this population? Advocating for this population and what they need and where the gaps are.