Freeman News

Reconnect Program Named One of Two ‘Centers of Excellence’ in Missouri

March 12, 2024

Freeman News

Reconnect Program Named One of Two ‘Centers of Excellence’ in Missouri

March 12, 2024
Ozark Center Program Helps People Suffering from Eating Disorders

JOPLIN, Mo. – There’s a simple reason why Joplin area resident Mattie Propps feels like she owes her newfound happiness to Ozark Center and its unique Reconnect program.

“Without Reconnect, I don’t think I would be here today,” the 24-year-old mother said during a recent interview. “I would not be a mother or wife. I don’t think I’d have the family that I have now, or the education. I don’t think I would be who I am today without having the experience of recovery.”

Established in 2018, Reconnect is the first documented eating disorder treatment program at Ozark Center, offering comprehensive behavioral healthcare on an outpatient basis. Recently, the program was named one of just two “Centers of Excellence” in Missouri by members of the Missouri Eating Disorders Council. Reconnect was recognized for its high level of training and services they provide to clients such as Propps. 

Propps, a Joplin area resident, had suffered from eating disorders dating back to her middle school years. Things took a turn for the worse when she attended John Brown University in Arkansas, leaving behind an established support system. 

“My life became a box,” she said, “where everything within the box was safe and everything outside isn’t. It just progressed from there and made the box smaller and smaller.” 

Eating disorders affect nearly 30 million Americans. Girls between the ages of 14 and 24 are especially vulnerable; twelve times more likely to die from the illness than any other cause of death, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. 

The 24-year-old’s family and friends ultimately intervened. 

“It got to the point where it was affecting everything,” Propps said with a shake of her head. “If I didn’t get help for this, bad things could happen.”

Propps was quickly introduced to Reconnect’s coordinated team approach to treating eating disorders. The program links each patient with a psychologist or therapist, as well as a registered dietitian, psychiatric provider, primary care physician, medical support and Reconnect coach.

“I think what’s really important is that our community has access to expert care that was not available previously,” said Dr. Jenny Copeland, clinical supervisor for Ozark Center’s Community Care Program. “It’s such a privilege to do the work we do. For some folks who are really struggling, their treatment is more intense, and we get to spend more time with them throughout the week. Speaking for the whole Reconnect team, we care about them and the work we do together.”

Thanks to Reconnect, Propps was linked to a case manager, a dietician and participated in therapy groups, each making huge impacts on her life. There were also unique ways to express herself, such as art. During last year’s “Reflections of Hunger” art show, for example, Propps displayed the art piece she’d crafted – a broken plate, glued back together, and filled with phrases and sentences she’d written in journals during her teenage school years.

“We’re told as women that we have to be pretty but not too pretty, skinny but not too skinny; we have to have curves, but we can’t be fat,” Propps said. “When you’re told that you’re supposed to be all of these things, especially so young, it becomes how you view yourself and how you define yourself. I think the media, culture and society plays a big part in how everyone views themselves.”

With effective treatment, 60 percent of people with eating disorders reach full recovery.

“Mattie was going through college as she was going through this recovery, and you would never know because she’s knocking out A’s and succeeding and working. You would never know how much she was struggling,” Dr. Copeland said. “And that’s part of it. It’s part of the illness. And that’s why it’s so lonely. It’s so isolating. It’s that box that keeps you disconnected from people you care about and your values, and just moving forward.”

For more information about Reconnect program, please call 417.347.8080.