Focus – Clarity – Direction

Focus – Clarity – Direction

Focus, clarity, and direction - CAT program objectives

When a child or adolescent is facing complex mental health issues, regular sessions with a psychiatrist or even a weeklong evaluation may not provide enough time and in-depth observation to understand the factors that are contributing to a patient’s challenge.

For some families, their child’s mental health issue has been treated unsuccessfully, despite seeking out numerous prior treatment modalities, and has exhausted all other resources and services within their community. The UNI Comprehensive Assessment Treatment (CAT) Program is an assessment program that targets this population.

Program Description

The CAT Program’s mission is Focus, Clarity, Direction. In the first phase of the program, our collaborative team will Focus on the child’s primary issues, identify the root of these issues, and work to establish clear and individualized goals for treatment.

In the second phase, Clarity is established. The child will receive a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment which will provide diagnostic clarification, identify the most effective therapy modalities for the child’s unique needs, and help to recognize the most effective interventions moving forward. This phase also includes a thorough academic assessment to help the child achieve full academic potential.

In the last phase, the child and the family is provided with Direction. We offer recommendations for the most appropriate setting for the child moving forward. Our goal is for the child to reunite with family as soon as appropriate. We collaborate with parents and educational consultants by offering tailored treatment recommendations to facilitate a smooth transition in their child’s journey toward wellness.

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Program Highlights

  • Program grounded in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Safe and secure environment ∗ Daily contact with board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists
  • Individualized and evidence-based treatment
  • Diagnostic clarification
  • Neuropsychological, psychiatric, and educational assessment
  • Teaching and practicing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill sets
  • Individual, family, group, expressive therapies
  • ROPES course experience
  • Providing the vision for a path to wellness by gaining a holistic understanding of the individual child.

Read about our therapy methods.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Comprehensive and Treatment (CAT) Program?

The CAT program at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute is a clinical program designed to help gain an understanding of a youth’s mental health and behavioral issues. It is designed as a four to six-week program where a multidisciplinary team works closely to evaluate the youth, identify the accurate diagnoses, and actively treat the symptoms. We have expertise in:

  • mood disorders (depression, bipolar),
  • anxiety (OCD, GAD, tics),
  • psychosis,
  • autism spectrum disorders,
  • substance abuse, and
  • many other diagnoses.

What makes us stand out from other programs is that many of our child psychiatrists are also pediatricians and thus have a very good understanding of the interactions between medical and psychiatric illness. We can handle many medical conditions that other psychiatric facilities are not equipped to manage.

What the CAT Program is NOT

The CAT program is not a substitute for an acute inpatient psychiatric admission. While this program can help stabilize a youth and identify the underlying medical and psychiatric conditions, it cannot be done in the typical acute inpatient hospitalization of a few days duration. Often insurances will not authorize for a youth to be in a psychiatric hospital more than three to nine days. While much can be done in this timeframe, it does not lend itself to expansive diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that the CAT program is designed to do.

Who is the treatment team?

The treatment team consists of a child and adolescent psychiatrist, psychologist, pediatrician (when appropriate), social worker, nurses, school teacher, expressive therapists (music, art, and recreation therapy), psychiatric technicians, and nutritionist.

What sort of treatment will my child receive?

Each youth’s treatment plan is individualized based on their symptoms and diagnosis. We will review previous records and testing and talk with previous providers (psychiatrists, primary care doctors, therapists, and the like) to obtain a clear understanding of your child. Then, through clinical interviews, appropriate medical evaluations, observation, and further psychological testing, we will refine the diagnosis. This allows us to recommend the best treatment options we can.

Treatment will involve therapy and often can involve medication. Your child’s psychiatrist will discuss medication options with you prior to initiating any treatment. We strongly believe in only providing the best evidence-based care available.

Will my child be in school?

Academics are an important component to a youth’s life and we will evaluate and coordinate his/her academic needs. However, upon initial admission, academics are often a secondary concern given diagnostic confusion of behaviors and symptoms. The school teacher reviews the records concurrently with the treatment team, and we develop an academic plan that is instituted when the youth has stabilized to the point that academics can be productive. Depending on the individual situation, school work may be done on the unit or in some cases in the hospital’s formal classroom.

What sort of other kids will my child be exposed to?

The CAT program is housed on our acute inpatient unit. We have an individualized programing track for these youth. They will be in groups with many other youths who have a variety of psychiatric issues. There will likely be kids with worse problems, many with fewer and others with very different problems from your child. While this is often a concern we hear from parents, we feel confident that our milieu and individualized treatment program provides a very healing therapeutic environment.

What Is the Family's Involvement?

We strongly encourage the family to be very involved as it is essential to understanding the youth’s presentation and help us assess their needs. Some parents are able to come out for a few days at the start of the admission. Then we have face to face time with the treatment team before they return home.

Families have daily phone or email contact with the treatment team and family therapy sessions as clinically recommended via telephone and/or video conferencing. Sometimes, the family will then come back out for more face to face sessions or at the time of discharge.

For some families or some situations, it is not appropriate for the parents to come out with the youth. In these cases, the family will still have daily phone or email contact with the treatment team and conduct therapy sessions by telephone.

What can I do to prepare?

The more previous records you can obtain prior to admission, the better. That way we have more time to focus on reviewing them and treating your child instead of requesting previous records. Due to HIPPA laws, other facilities cannot send us records they didn’t generate – meaning even if the last placement had all of your child’s records, they can only send their own records.

Because of this we strongly encourage all parents to keep a master file with copies of all of your child’s records. This way you can quickly provide any information to the next provider with minimal hassle. When your child is discharged, we will give you a copy of our reports for your master file and send a copy to your child’s next provider.

How Much Does It Cost & What Is Covered?

The cost of our program is designed as a set daily rate that includes all common services from your treatment team (psychological testing, medications, professional fees, and the like). There are times when supplements are charged for non-standard services, such as the need for a 1:1 staffing with your child.

Also, if there are nonstandard medical tests (such as MRIs or EEGs) or medical sub-specialists that your child needs to see, we will work with your insurance to authorize these visits. The business office will be your point of contact for financial questions as we intentionally keep the treatment team focused on providing the best clinical care for your child.

Please call for questions related to billing for the CAT Program.

Why do I have to pay upfront?

Unfortunately, most insurances will not cover this sort of treatment. While we will certainly try to work with your insurance, there is no guarantee that they will pay. Quite frankly, the only way to make this program fiscally possible is to obtain payment at the time of services. If your insurance does indeed pay, you will be reimbursed the difference.

Additional Program Specialists

Tina Halliday, LCSW

Tina Halliday, LCSW, is the admissions coordinator for University of Utah Health's Neuropsychiatric Institute Comprehensive Assessment and Treatment (UNI CAT) program in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has worked with UNI since 1999 and the CAT program since it began in 2011. Tina graduated from the University of Utah Graduate School of Social Work with her MSW. She has practiced for 30 years in the behavioral health field. She has provided direct clinical care to a variety of age groups and treated a variety of mental illnesses.

Tina has also worked with Employee Assistance Programing throughout much of her career. This includes clinical services, management consultation, critical incident debriefing, and wellness seminar trainings to many employer groups. She enjoys her family, friends, and a variety of outdoor activities.

Scott Sonntag, LCSW

Scott Sonntag is a licensed clinical social worker and the program specialist for University of Utah Health's Neuropsychiatric Comprehensive Assessment and Treatment (UNI CAT) Program in Salt Lake City, Utah. Scott has worked at UNI for over 11 years in various roles. In addition, Scott has worked as a social worker at the Carmen B. Pingree School for Children with Autism. He also has worked at the University of Utah Counseling Center where he provided individual, couple, and group therapy for students. During his time there he implemented an Autism Group on campus and provided outreach for International Students.

Scott takes a behavioral approach to therapy and is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT) informed, but adheres to acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) as his preferred approach. Scott is also currently pursuing an education at the University of Utah in a dual master's program in public administration and health care administration.

Scott has many interests but his passion is waterskiing and wakeboarding. His second home is Lake Powell.

Rachelle Wilson, RN

Rachelle Wilson is the nurse manager of University of Utah Health's Neuropsychiatric Institute’s (UNI) Youth Services for inpatient care and is responsible for the management and coordination of nursing care for UNI’s Comprehensive Assessment and Treatment (UNI-CAT) Program. Ms. Wilson holds a master’s degree in the science of nursing with a focus on leadership and management; she is also is a board certified psychiatric nurse.

She has worked in the CAT program from its beginning in 2011. She has over 20 years of psychiatric nursing experience and is passionate about child and adolescent psychiatric nursing care. Ms. Wilson’s professional mission and purpose is to provide leadership and direction to direct care providers following evidence based best practice standards to ensure an exceptional patient experience.

Ms. Wilson is a native to the Salt Lake Valley and appreciates all the activities this exquisite mountain setting has to offer.

John Webb, CTRS, CHMC

John Webb is the expressive therapies manager at University of Utah Health's Neuropsychiatric Institute. John received his bachelor’s degree in recreation and master's degree in clinical counseling. He is licensed and nationally certified as a therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS TRS) and licensed in Utah as a clinical mental health counselor (CHMC).

John has over 20 year of experience working with adolescents in a verity of settings including: wilderness, residential treatment, and hospitals. He is the father of four sons. John and his wife enjoy spending time with their family in the mountains and on their small farm.

Joe Walker, TRS, CTRS

Joseph Walker is a state licensed, nationally certified therapeutic recreation specialist for the UNI CAT program. Joe graduated with his bachelor's in arts from the University of Utah in 2012 after completing his senior internship at a residential treatment center.

Joe has worked at UNI since 2012 and brings experience in leisure education and ROPES course facilitation. He loves introducing and promoting healthy, safe recreation into the lives of others. Joe enjoys spending time conquering the trails with his family.

McKenna Miller

McKenna Miller is a creative arts therapist working in the expressive therapies department at University Neuropsychiatric Institute. McKenna's degree and certifications are within the music therapy techniques. She works with the UNI CAT program inpatients once a week facilitating a music therapy group focused on DBT skills, self-expression, leadership skills, and positive self-concept.

McKenna completed her bachelor’s degree at Utah State University in 2012 and then completed an internship in Tallahassee, Florida. McKenna has worked at UNI for one year and worked with CAT patients since being hired at UNI. McKenna enjoys sewing, reading, movies, and spending time with those who matter most. She holds the philosophy that cultivating a feeling of hope through her use of music through therapeutic intention is the goal in life and in her work with inpatient youth here at UNI.

Dakota Allstadt, RD, CD

Dakota Allstadt is the primary clinical dietitian at UNI. Dakota completed her bachelor's of science in nutrition at Simmons College in Boston, MA, with a minor in psychology. She completed her dietetic internship through the California State University of Sacramento and went on to pursue a career as a clinical dietitian in a low socio-economic community hospital of Vallejo, CA.

Dakota also has experience in outpatient counseling on weight management and therapeutic diets. Her interests lay in motivational counseling for healthy lifestyle and disordered eating. Dakota enjoys outdoor activities, especially skiing, in the Utah wilderness.

Amanda Speer, LCSW

Amanda Speer is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) since 2001. A Salt Lake City native, she completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Utah.

Amanda works with appropriate CAT Program patients through equine therapy, where people and horses come together to improve personal insight and potential for growth. Whether she is in the office or in the barn, Amanda considers herself privileged to be a part of the change journey her patients and their families set out on.

Amanda’s main role at UNI is program manager of the Recovery Works Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program. She has worked in the fields of addiction and mental health since 1997. Before coming to UNI, she enjoyed working with residential, crisis, and criminal justice populations.

TyJha Corbin, MPH

TyJha Corbin is the outreach specialist for University of Utah Health's Neuropsychiatric Comprehensive Assessment and Treatment (UNI-CAT) Program in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, health science minor from Clemson University and a Master in Public Health from Westminster College. During graduate school, Ty was a part of the UNI nursing staff, working as a psychiatric technician on all inpatient units, as well as day treatment before her transition into outreach.

Ty has lived in eight different states, spanning California to New York. She enjoys learning about diverse cultures, while traveling and meeting new people.

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