Life-Saving Treatment at ACUTE

Eating disorders can be severe, extreme and life-threatening, with psychiatric and medical complications requiring immediate attention. Even in young people who are relatively new to their eating disorder, getting help can be a matter of life or death.

There’s a small group of people that have extreme forms of eating disorders who are at major risk of dying if they don't get urgent specialized medical treatment. Going to an emergency room or residential treatment center (RTC) is not the answer for someone who has medical instability from an extreme eating disorder. Sadly, very few medical providers are trained to identify and safely treat the medical issues caused by malnutrition and purging behaviors.

Specialized Treatment for Severe Eating Disorders and Malnutrition

ACUTE is essentially a medical intensive care unit (ICU) specifically for patients with severe eating disorders. A private 30-bed medical telemetry unit at Denver Health Medical Center, ACUTE only treats patients with life-threatening eating disorders, as well as individuals who suffer from severe malnutrition due to disease or infection who must safely gain weight to continue or begin treatment.

To illustrate just how sick the patients are that meet criteria to admit to ACUTE, in 2020 alone, 10 patients with scheduled admissions to ACUTE died from their medical issues as their families were in the final stages of arranging travel to Denver.

The good news is that the deadly medical complications of severe eating disorders and malnutrition generally resolve completely with expert weight restoration and nutritional rehabilitation. There is hope for survival and recovery.

Who Does ACUTE Treat?

Adult Treatment Program

Adult patients who are too medically complex for treatment in other residential treatment centers are accepted at ACUTE. Learn more. 

Adolescent Treatment Program

Both male and female patients from the age of 15—regardless of how low their BMI is—are accepted at ACUTE. Learn more.

International Patients

As an international resource for patients needing urgent, specialized medical intervention, ACUTE regularly admits patients from outside the United States to our unit at Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. Learn more. 

Medical Stabilization & Interdisciplinary Care

ACUTE treats people of all genders ages 15+. Its expert and renowned medical treatment helps patients alleviate or avoid medical complications of eating disorders, safely begins the refeeding process and provides mental health support.

“Safe weight restoration is the key to helping a patient with anorexia,” says Dr. Mehler, noting that ACUTE can administer any type of nutrition necessary, including oral, tube, and intravenous feeding. “For bulimia, we stabilize electrolytes that can become critically abnormal from self-induced vomiting and laxative abuse.” 

Patients receive around-the-clock care from expert doctors and nurses, as well as a multidisciplinary team including occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology, psychiatry, and dietary. This comprehensive approach addresses the individual’s physical and behavioral recovery needs and prepares the individual to seek further treatment at an RTC after they medically stabilize.

The vast majority of our patients, because they're so ill and they're flirting with death, are very appreciative of how much better they feel following expert medical care. [From ACUTE], they step down to the next level of treatment in a better place to pursue a complete and sustained recovery.

Dr. Philip Mehler, Founder & Chief Executive Officer

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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