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National Recreation Association magazine "Recreation"

Hospital Capsules by Beatrice H. Hill

(NOTE: Mrs. Beatrice H. Hill is consultant on hospital recreation for the National Recreation Association.
May 1956, Volume 49; page 237

By Beatrice H. Hill (Mrs. Hill is the NRA consultant on hospital recreation.)

This month, Madison Dunn, recreation director at Riverside Hospital for Juvenile Drug Addicts, tells of his recreation program.

Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, New York City, is a hospital for adolescent narcotic users who range from fourteen to twenty-one years of age. Although most of the 128 patients are boys, similar treatment is given to both sexes. Its patients come from different types of agencies, the courts, and through the recommendations of parents. A few ask to be admitted.

A boy will first be examined by the doctor, have his clothing checked for concealed drugs, and then be sent to the withdrawal ward, where he is gradually taken off the drug by the use of proper medication. He must remain on this ward for three weeks, during which time he is observed, interviewed, tested and examined by the psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric social worker, recreational therapist, occupational therapist, nurse, and the chaplain.

At the end of this time he is brought to the diagnostic clinic, where staff members compare notes and decide whether he stays, is sent home or, in some cases, returned to the court. For those who stay, this is the day when their clothing is returned and they are accorded the same privileges as the regular patients.

His daily program includes a half-day of school, a half-day of work, and regular appointments with his doctors and other members of the rehabilitation team. As the entire program is aimed towards the patient’s return to the community, we in recreation conduct our programs as close to community-type recreation as possible.

Our program is conducted from 2:45 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. Monday through Friday; 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays. Some of the activities are: games, movies, music, dancing, discussion groups, sports, dramatics, outings, and field trips. The recreation staff has to be extremely careful not to over-supervise the patient but still carefully protect him from the dangers of his weakness.

In an effort to reach and understand the patient, there are several media the recreational therapist utilizes. One of these is the hospital team. The patient population is divided into six teams, and members of the staffs of all departments are assigned to the various teams to handle their problems and help with their treatment. Each recreational therapist is responsible to one team and for reporting its progress, keeping records of the patients, and entering his notes on the medical charts.

When a patient first arrives he is given an orientation by a member of the recreation department. Even while he is on withdrawal, recreation of a passive nature is brought to him.

A Recreation Patient Council, which consists of two elected representatives of the six teams, meets each Friday with the medical superintendent, recreational therapist, and school teacher. Once a week, also, there are separate meetings for each of the six teams, during which the patients are free to discuss problems that the recreational therapist may be able to help solve. Out of these meetings come sound group therapy, good ideas which can be incorporated into the recreation program and a chance to talk over health habits and grooming.

Doctors and psychiatrists feel that the informal non-compulsive type of relationship which we establish with a patient, in a game or activity, is advantageous because the patient finds it easier to talk when there is not the formal “across-the-desk’ type of interview. We very often are in the favorable position of being able to report a great deal about how the patient feels regarding people and life in general. At Riverside, we feel the addiction of the patient is secondary and the mental maladjustment is the main factor to be treated. Our youngsters want and need direction. They must be shown what society expects from them and taught how to get along with it.



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