Kansas City,
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Children’s Mercy Kansas City Announces First Consolidated Program in the Region to Treat Newer Eating Disorder

Children’s Mercy Kansas City announced it has expanded its Eating Disorders Center services to streamline comprehensive care for Avoidance/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) – the only consolidated program in the region to offer medical treatment, nutrition services and therapy for ARFID.

“ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis and a catch-all category for children and adolescents who have difficulty eating and meeting nutritional needs,” said Sara Gould, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Director, Eating Disorders Center, Children’s Mercy. “They do not have body image or weight concerns - that is not the barrier to eating.”  

The three primary subtypes of ARFID include: 1) phobia-based avoidance- patients afraid of choking, vomiting or experience pain associated with eating; 2) sensory sensitivity- patients struggling with sensory properties and avoiding certain foods to the extent that it affects their nutrition, and 3) those disinterested in food for a variety of reasons; medical concerns or neurological differences can interfere with hunger and satiety cues.

This provides an opportunity for even greater collaboration with primary care providers to comprehensively treat difficult-to-treat mental health conditions, like ARFID. Until now, children diagnosed with ARFID would typically be managed by their primary care providers and piece together services from resources in the community or out of state making it difficult for families to get the care they needed efficiently. This expansion of services, thanks to generous anonymous community donors, allows for continued treatment and support in the same place.

“Coordination of care among providers is critical for successful treatment and is already a part of what we do here at Children’s Mercy,” said Dr. Gould.

Patients and their families meet with Adolescent Medicine, Psychology, Social Work and Nutrition to come up with a care plan. Treatment usually lasts around 20 sessions, or longer if a child is initially significantly underweight.

“Our goals are individualized based on each patient,” said Dr. Gould. “We start from what their barriers are and go from there. We’re not trying to make our patients adventurous eaters; we’re simply trying to help them meet their nutritional needs and be able to navigate their worlds.” 

This is one of 14 projects of the broader Children’s Mercy Illuminate plan, a comprehensive initiative to address the mental health needs of children and teens in the community – a new $150 million investment impacting more than 80,000 kids – the largest of its kind in the region.

Learn more about Eating Disorders and the Avoidance/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) program at Children’s Mercy: Eating Disorder Facts | Children's Mercy Kansas City (childrensmercy.org)