Dr. Nathan Blenkush has served as JRC’s Clinical Director for 17-years overseeing the organization’s entire clinical program, which includes all treatment programs and protocols and students and adults. In that role, Nathan supervises JRC’s clinical teams and reviews all admissions.
Dr. Blenbush also publishes articles including a recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience and Clinical Neurosciences. “It’s about a patient that before going on GED, was restrained over 5,000 times, caused 343 staff injuries and really had no life,” he explains. “And in one day (after GED treatment), all of that stopped. All of the behaviors stopped. She was never restrained again.”
Dr. Blenbush believes that JRC’s treatments offer students and adults in the organization’s care an improved quality of life that they would not receive anywhere else.
“That’s been the driving factor all these years,” he says. “A lot of our clients, they’ve been in the hospital, not for an emergency, not for a week – but for months or years waiting for placement. I saw someone recently, they’re in a very well regarded program, and officials had perceived him as so dangerous that they would not go in and have physical contact with him… and that’s the kid’s life and they have no plans to do anything else and so he’s going to come here.”
At JRC, the goal is to wean students and adults off potentially dangerous psychotropic drugs that make them listless and unaware of their environment. Dr. Blenbush recalls one young patient who spent the entirety of her day injuring herself before arriving at JRC and undergoing GED therapy. “After that, she goes on home visits, all the calluses are healed, no more helmets, no more protective equipment, no more restraint chairs. So when you think of that clinical problem, the extraordinary cost to her life, her existing life and then the unknown effects of all of that head banging over years and years. You weigh that against the risk of two seconds of discomfort maybe once a month.”
Dr. Blenbush praises JRC staff members for their tireless dedication to improving the quality of life for their residents by seeking new ways to improve treatment. “We have really talented clinicians here and they continue to make changes to the program. They continue to look at the problem differently.”
Dr. Blenbush also understands the urgency to do whatever is necessary to elevate and improve a patient’s life. This is just one of the differentiators in JRC’s treatment model, which contradicts the historically slow approach deployed by others.
“People look at life sometimes like a journey that just goes on forever. Well it’s not a journey that goes on forever,” he says. “We all only have so many days, weeks, months or years on the planet. We don’t accept treatments that take 10 years to work or that cause us to be away from our family for not just a couple of days, but weeks or years. We won’t tolerate that but in mental health, we tolerate all these kinds of things, this kind of gradual no progress approach, warehousing people places with no expectation of getting better and then this lack of urgency. It’s an extraordinary clinical problem that needs to be addressed.”
This is one of the key frustrations in clinical care that drives Dr. Blenbush to constantly seek new and better ways to treat incredibly challenging behaviors. “I really think that our way of looking at these clinical problems and what we see is the real universe. It’s not fantasy. We’re not selling anything. We’re telling people what the clinical problem is and what it takes to actually address it. I think too many other people are talking about these aspirational types of things and they’re more concerned about how they are viewed rather than the patient getting better… The focus of treatment has to be the individual patient not an organizational need, not a society need but what’s best for this person. You and I wouldn’t tolerate any other way for ourselves.”
Dr. Blenbush compares stigma regarding GED therapy to Dr. Sydney Farber’s revolutionary use of chemotherapy in the 1940’s and 1950’s. “If someone had childhood leukemia then, they’d say “you’re going to be dead in 3 to 6 months” and with chemotherapy, they might get like 6 to 9 months. But some of the kids would go into remission and they kept refining it and they got better and better.”
Despite a lack of understanding by some, Dr. Blenbush says the JRC staff powers ahead for the good of those students and adults who rely on GED therapy.
“That’s what keeps us going and that’s why we keep the GED treatment available,” he says. ”We do everything we can because it’s not like there’s a real alternative. If you have option A of just giving up and not using the treatment anymore or B – fighting for the treatment… we would be doing it in a second.”