When Life-Saving Medical Care is Needed, Experience Matters
Severe eating disorders are the only mental illnesses regularly accompanied by dangerous, life-threatening medical complications. Significant medical instability results from progressive malnutrition, purging behaviors and blood chemistry abnormalities, and compromises virtually all of the body’s vital organs and systems.
ACUTE’s private, hospital-based medical telemetry unit at Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado only treats these complex medical issues in patients with extreme forms of eating disorders and severe malnutrition.
Understanding common medical complications or anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is crucial to saving lives and helping patients achieve the medical stability and cognitive function necessary to engage fully in the recovery process.
Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a highly lethal mental disorder manifested by marked food restrictions, resulting in a very thin body habitus, an abnormal focus on body image and a host of medical complications which progress as the malnutrition worsens.
Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is an eating disorder characterized by a dangerous cycle of bingeing and purging via compensatory behaviors to rid the body of ingested calories and prevent weight gain.
Atypical Anorexia Nervosa (A-AN)
A myth in eating disorders is that restrictive eating disorders including anorexia nervosa and ARFID are only problematic at very low BMIs and % Ideal Body Weight (IBW).
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a feeding disturbance characterized by a persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional or energy needs.
Severe Malnutrition (non-ED)
Liver failure, non-tuberculosis mycobacterium infection (NTM, aka MAI), cancer, HIV or other chronic infections can cause significant unintended weight loss and medical instability related to malnutrition.
Air Ambulance Transport
For patients with extreme forms of eating disorders and severe malnutrition, ACUTE’s admission process removes the logistical issues and risks of commercial air travel, taxis/Ubers and nights alone in hotels. It also acknowledges emerging considerations related to COVID-19 and safe travel, including social distancing and closures, that may complicate one’s ability to travel to treatment.
Leading International Experts
We recognize that traveling across the country, or to another country, for treatment can feel overwhelming, particularly when you or a loved one are already dealing with the emotional burden of serious illness. Once you reach out to us, you are no longer alone. Our compassionate admissions team will support you every step along the way, making it as easy as possible for you to make the journey to our unit in Denver.
Center of Excellence Designation
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.
“Following more than 2 years, 3 countries, 7 hospitals, I was dropped at Denver airport with no direction. 70% blind, it was up to me to create a vision. What could I make of this clean slate; how could I take on the mountains of my mind?”Jill
During her life-changing treatment at ACUTE, Jill Wheatley “found signs leading me to travel and embrace every day and every stride.” Dialing in from the Himalayas, Jill participated in a beautiful Facebook Live conversation to explain how she followed those signs to a life of recovery involving skiing, ice climbing and exploration around the world.
“There is such a misunderstanding about eating disorders and the health consequences in the medical community that I was able to easily hide behind my disorder and did so for many years.”Mark
On my first day, I knew right away that all the people treating me were on my side and only wanted the best for me. They were caring, compassionate and had a deep understanding of my condition. I could not believe the extent to which each caregiver went to be sure that I was receiving the highest level of care which they had promised me at the beginning of my stay. With all of that in mind, I found quickly that getting healthy was not going to be an easy journey and it did require me giving into the process. I needed to open myself up to the process and allow it the time necessary to stabilize both my mental and physical health. I had a long road ahead and with the help of my team, the road seemed much more manageable and, for the first time, I felt confidence in my ability to beat this thing.
“After many failed attempts in inpatient facilities, residential treatment programs and partial programs, I was beginning to lose faith that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I was accomplished in so many ways, but my eating disorder was full-blown and affecting my daily life. The anorexia and use of laxatives was my only friend. I knew I needed to do something.”Melanie
The weekend prior to my arrival at the ACUTE, I laid in bed for 48 hours straight – throwing up, running to the bathroom every hour on the hour with diarrhea, and shaking from my electrolytes being so out of whack. I prayed all night that something bad wouldn’t happen to me. I prayed that I wouldn't have a heart attack, a stroke, a seizure and not to go into cardiac arrest. I prayed my kidneys wouldn't fail and that I wouldn't need dialysis one day – something my doctor told me was possible if I didn't get help now. I made a promise – a promise that if I made it through the night I would call ACUTE, a hospital treatment program that treats the most severe eating disorder patients with medical complications and ask them to help me. That next day I booked a flight and I left for Denver, Colorado. I flew halfway across the country and found my light at the end of tunnel. The day of my admission to ACUTE, I was so excited. I was excited because I knew that this would be my saving grace. I was greeted with a wheelchair and smiles; and in that wheelchair I felt all of my worries wash away. My gut told me I was in the right place.
Compassionate, honest answers to your questions and concerns.
Can I die from an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose. While many premature eating disorder deaths are from suicide, the serious medical complications of starvation and purging can be fatal.
Am I too sick for ACUTE?
No patient is too sick for ACUTE. Our experts have successfully treated patients as low as 37% of Ideal Body Weight and with myriad complex medical complications. Everyone deserves a chance to survive and recover—we can help.
Am I sick enough for ACUTE?
Life-threatening medical issues can arise quickly from malnutrition and purging, even in young people and those new to their eating disorder. Some patients with normal or above normal BMIs will experience serious medical instability and require specialized inpatient medical stabilization to address these concerns.
What if I’ve been denied admission to other treatment centers?
Treatment guidelines discourage inpatient behavioral treatment centers from accepting patients with BMI < 15 or with severe medical complexity; they simply don’t have the medical capabilities to safely refeed and stabilize these fragile patients. ACUTE is the only dedicated inpatient medical stabilization unit with a Center of Excellence designation capable of this specialty treatment.
Is ACUTE a residential treatment center?
No, ACUTE is an inpatient medical stabilization unit offering behavioral support, not an inpatient behavioral treatment unit. Once patients achieve medical stability at ACUTE, they transition to an appropriate next level of care, usually a residential eating disorder treatment center providing inpatient behavioral care.
Am I too ill to travel to Denver?
Many of ACUTE’s patients require air ambulance transport due to extreme medical instability. We partner with elite air ambulance providers to get patients to our unit at Denver Health safely and swiftly, usually within 48 hours.
Will insurance cover my treatment at ACUTE?
ACUTE is medical treatment and bills under the patient’s medical insurance benefit. ACUTE is contracted and in-network with most private insurance programs, and can work to secure a waiver or single case agreement on behalf of patients with other insurance programs.
Can ACUTE treat severe malnutrition if I don’t have an eating disorder?
Yes. ACUTE treats patients with severe malnutrition stemming from advanced illness or infection, including liver failure, cancer, HIV, NTM (aka MAI) and substance abuse, who must safely weight restore to begin or continue treatment or have a life-saving surgery. These patients receive ACUTE’s world-class refeeding and stabilization, care for co-occurring diagnoses and any behavioral support that may be helpful in recovery.
Lifesaving Medical Treatment When All Other Care Has Failed
Eating disorders can be deadly—in fact, they have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness second only to opioid addiction. When your medical issues from starvation, malnutrition or purging become severe and uncomfortable, entrust your survival and recovery to the world’s experts in the medical treatment of eating disorders.
Both male and female patients from the age of 15—regardless of how low their BMI is—are accepted at ACUTE.
A 30-bed telemetry unit, ACUTE provides inpatient medical treatment for life-threatening eating disorder complications, as well as behavioral support tailored to the needs of adolescents.
What to Expect
Whether you, a loved one or a health care professional contacts ACUTE about your care, the inquiry will be met with compassion and a sense of urgency due to the life-threatening potential of medical complications of severe eating disorders and malnutrition. Our team of highly skilled admissions professionals will complete an assessment at your convenience, including gathering medical records from medical and behavioral health providers. If it is determined that you meet criteria for admission to ACUTE, your dedicated admissions professional will initiate insurance authorization on your behalf and discuss timing of admission based on the severity of your medical issues, sometimes within 48 hours.
Billing the Medical Benefit
Treatment for severe eating disorders and malnutrition at ACUTE is covered under the patient’s medical insurance benefit. This preserves mental health benefits for ongoing care at a traditional inpatient or residential eating disorder treatment facility.