Gundersen Lutheran previews behavioral health facility - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Gundersen Lutheran previews behavioral health facility

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - There's a growing need for mental health treatment in the community, according to Gundersen Lutheran staff.

They're hoping to address that need with the new inpatient behavioral health facility.

The public got to look inside the newest treatment center Saturday.

One community mom hopes the facility helps other families from going through what she went through.

"We lost our daughter to bipolar disorder," said Debra Mahr. "She died five years ago on Nov. 19, 2007. She started developing problems when she went to college. Almost immediately her whole personality changed."

But at the time, there was no nearby mental health facility to help Kaitlin Mahr.

Mahr went to college in Appleton but the Appleton hospital was full at the time she needed treatment. The Mahr family had to travel all the way to Green Bay for Kaitlin to receive help for her bipolar disorder.

"With the facility this close, they're not tearing families apart (while) your whole family is in trauma," Debra Mahr said.

Gundersen Lutheran has built 34 private rooms for adults and adolescent patients struggling with mental health issues.

Gundersen Lutheran's Vice President of Clinical Operations, Kelly Barton, said of the 72 counties in Wisconsin, 51 don't have mental health facilities.

"We know people with mental illness need good quality health care so that's important. We have a commitment to this community and we're going to continue to fulfill that," Barton said.

The facility has a meditation room, a courtyard, and in the adolescent wing, Kaitlin's Library. The room is dedicated in Kaitlin's honor and will be used as a classroom.

Saturday was the first time Mahr stepped into the room honoring her daughter.

"We want her memory to stay alive," Mahr said. "She will not be forgotten."

Gundersen Lutheran's behavioral health facility will officially open to patients Feb. 5.

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