FAQ About Eating Disorder Treatment at ACUTE

Navigating the life-threatening medical complications that can accompany severe eating disorders and malnutrition can be understandably stressful. Below are answers to several common questions about ACUTE and the inpatient medical stabilization level of care for severe eating disorders and malnutrition. Our admissions team is available seven days per week to answer any questions you may have and begin the intake process.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is inpatient medical stabilization for severe eating disorders and malnutrition?

    The inpatient medical stabilization level of care treats the most extreme and medically complex cases of eating disorders in a hospital-based telemetry unit. Patients that meet ACUTE’s admission criteria have a severely low body weight and are too medically unstable to admit to a traditional eating disorder treatment program.

  • Is ACUTE a residential eating disorder treatment center?

    No. ACUTE is an inpatient medical stabilization unit treating the most severe and extreme cases of eating disorders and malnutrition. A residential eating disorder treatment center provides inpatient behavioral treatment, usually with varying degrees of medical support. ACUTE delivers inpatient medical care on a hospital-based telemetry unit, offering 24/7 medical monitoring and medically-supported weight restoration and nutritional rehabilitation. In addition to ACUTE’s robust medical treatment, patients benefit from behavioral and therapeutic support from a team that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, chaplains and support animals. The goal of inpatient medical stabilization is to restore the patient’s medical status so they may transition to an inpatient behavioral treatment center, often times a residential treatment center, to address the behavioral complexity of their eating disorder and pursue ongoing recovery.

  • Am I too sick for ACUTE?

    No patient is too sick to get well. Nearly all medical complications that stem from severe eating disorders and malnutrition resolve with medically-supported expert weight restoration and nutritional rehabilitation. ACUTE has successfully treated thousands of patients, some as low as 37% of Ideal Body Weight (IBW). Call ACUTE today and learn how we deliver unmatched specialized medical care, giving patients and families hope for survival and recovery.

  • Am I sick enough to admit to ACUTE?

    ACUTE’s highly skilled admissions team will conduct a thorough assessment with each patient, family and/or referring provider to determine if the patient meets our admission criteria. If so, they will initiate any necessary insurance authorizations and arrange admissions details, including air ambulance transport if clinically appropriate.

  • Does ACUTE accept patients who are malnourished but don’t have an eating disorder?

    Yes. In addition to world-class medical treatment for severe eating disorders, ACUTE treats severe malnutrition that stems from other medical causes, including non-tuberculosis mycobacterium infection (NTM, aka MAI), cancer, HIV or other chronic infections. These medical issues can cause significant unintended weight loss and medical instability related to malnutrition, and many patients with serious illness or infections must restore weight to meet minimum Body Mass Index (BMI) requirements to be eligible for a life-saving surgery or to begin additional necessary treatment. ACUTE skillfully supports weight restoration and nutritional rehabilitation. Additionally, in collaboration with the greater Denver Health Medical Center and referring providers, ACUTE delivers any concurrent medical care necessary to manage other medical conditions. Patients without eating disorders also have access to ACUTE’s therapeutic support to manage any co-occurring psychiatric issues due to hospitalization stress and living with major illness.

  • Can I be involuntarily committed to treatment at ACUTE?

    Involuntary treatment through a Mental Health Hold can be a life-saving medico-legal intervention for a very small subset of adult patients (less than 5%), who are gravely disabled as a result of their dangerously low weight, psychiatric issues and life-threatening medical complications. A growing body of research supports the utility of using a mental health hold, and once medically and psychiatrically stable, most patients come to appreciate the hold as a life-saving turning point in their recovery journey.

  • Can I come back to my treatment center/treatment team after I stabilize at ACUTE?

    Yes. ACUTE is committed to returning patients to their existing treatment providers following medical stabilization. If patients do not have an established treatment team or preferred treatment center, ACUTE can make referrals to support ongoing treatment and recovery.

  • Can ACUTE offer treatment for a co-occurring alcohol and substance abuse?

    Yes. As a medical telemetry unit staffed 24/7 with internal medicine physicians, nurses and certified nursing assistants and behavioral health technicians, ACUTE can offer safe detox for patients with severe eating disorders on the unit. Patients benefit from addressing immediate substance concerns while at the same time receiving the world-renowned, life-saving medical and behavioral care for which ACUTE is known.

  • I’m very sick following rapid major weight loss, but my BMI is normal. Can I be treated at ACUTE?

    Yes. ACUTE is not just for patients with “extreme thinness”—you can be dangerously medically unstable even if your BMI is normal or over normal following rapid, major weight loss. In fact, Atypical Anorexia Nervosa occurs when the patient is experiencing medical complications of anorexia, but current weight is normal or above normal. There are no hard-and-fast definitions of how much weight must be lost and in what timeframe for dangerous metabolic issues to occur, so each case will be evaluated independently based on the patient’s symptoms.

  • Does ACUTE accept insurance?

    Yes, ACUTE is committed to making our life-saving care accessible to those that need it. ACUTE accepts and is in network with most major medical insurance. Note that unlike inpatient behavioral eating disorder treatment programs that bill the patient’s behavioral health benefit, ACUTE is an inpatient medical stabilization unit and therefore bills under the patient’s medical benefit. This is particularly valuable to patients with eating disorders, as behavioral health benefits are preserved for ongoing behavioral treatment that generally follows discharge from ACUTE.

  • Do I need a referral from a doctor or a hospital?

    No. Patients can self-refer to ACUTE if they require our specialized medical care for an extreme eating disorder or severe malnutrition. However, many healthcare providers and behavioral health professionals contact us on behalf of their patients, who may be too medically compromised to initiate the admissions process.

  • What if I’m too medically unstable to travel to Denver?

    ACUTE partners with industry-leading air ambulance providers to transport patients who are too ill to fly commercially or drive to the unit in Denver, Colorado. ACUTE’s admissions team, along with our air ambulance partners handle all aspects of a bedside-to-bedside transfer on the medically configured Learjet, including insurance authorization, usually within 48 hours.

  • How soon can I admit to ACUTE?

    It depends; however, ACUTE’s admissions process acknowledges the urgent need for admission when patients are facing life-threatening complications from extreme eating disorders and severe malnutrition. ACUTE accepts eligible admissions seven days per week. Urgent admissions may admit in as little as 24-48 hours.

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
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.

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