Residential Treatment

Residential Treatment:

Rogers is a comprehensive psychiatric hospital, nationally recognized for specialty residential treatment programs for eating disorders, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders for children, teens and adults.

Life. Worth. Living.

December 22, 2016 - 8:20am

Having a mindful holidayWith the holiday season upon us, the rush to find the perfect gift or pressure to prepare the perfect meal can be overwhelming. If you have a history of anxiety or challenges with a mood disorder, it’s an especially important time to be aware of your mental health.

“Even if people with anxiety or mood disorders are doing well, depression and anxiety can worsen in times of increased stress,” says Jerry Halverson, MD, medical director of Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc and FOCUS residential mood disorders program for adults. “During the holidays, we have higher expectations and want everything to be perfect, so there’s pressure to fit more in our schedules than we normally do.”

When we’re busy, we’re not able to spend as much time on the things we should. “When you have to give more of your time to holiday activities or gatherings, the first things to drop out of your schedule are typically self-care activities,” says Dr. Halverson. “These are the enjoyable, meaningful things we do to keep ourselves well, such as sleep, exercise, spending time with pets or being outside.”

How can you make sure you’re on track to have a healthy holiday? Dr. Halverson recommends being mindful. “Be present in the moment by thinking about where you’re at, how you’re feeling and how you’re thinking,” he says. “It’s something we should all practice. If you’re mindful, you’re more likely to identify when your mood or anxiety reach an unhealthy level.”

“It can be difficult to find time to invest in yourself and in your mental health, but there’s a much larger price if you don’t take the time to do that,” says Dr. Halverson.

If you believe someone may need extra support this holiday, Dr. Halverson recommends starting a conversation. “Oftentimes, if you’re dealing with a mood or anxiety disorder, you don’t have insight or understand the effect your mental health is having on your behavior and relationships with others,” he says.

Common signs that you or someone you know may have depression or anxiety include:

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Not enough or too much time spent sleeping
  • Changes in appetite, energy or concentration
  • Thoughts or discussion about suicide or self-harm

One way to support someone is to offer assistance in appropriate situations. “If you’re going holiday shopping, ask your loved one to go with you,” says Dr. Halverson. “Your stressful shopping trip will probably be more enjoyable with people you know. Bring your friends along to the stimulating, positive activities you enjoy.”

If you or someone you know may need professional support, begin by requesting a free confidential screening online.

November 22, 2016 - 2:54pm

Not feeling holiday spirit this year? Peggy Scallon, MD, medical director of the residential FOCUS Adolescent Mood Disorders Program at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc, recommends doing your best to get out and stay connected. Watch her interview on CBS 58 for tips on managing the holiday blues.

October 26, 2016 - 8:03am

Fears don't end after HalloweenAs children in your community participate in this year’s trick-or-treat, many will shriek with excitement from the scary costumes, ghoulish décor and other Halloween horrors. The day after, the frightening excitement will melt away and children will return to their usual fall time schedules. But for thousands of children with anxiety in the United States, dealing with real fear every day of the year is reality.

Anxiety in children might not always appear in the way you’d expect. “A lot of children will describe feeling tense or parents will notice their child losing weight due to a loss of appetite,” says Cuong Tieu, MD, medical director of the residential Child Center, located on the Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc campus. “Children may also complain about having an upset stomach, sweaty palms, racing heart, diarrhea or difficulty breathing, while teenagers tend to report feeling worried or afraid of certain events.”

But what are kids with anxiety afraid of? “Pediatric anxiety varies by child and can range from specific phobias about the dark or heights to separation from parents,” says Dr. Tieu. “Anxiety depends on our life experiences and how we perceive threatening or provoking events in our lives, as well as our genetic makeup.”

Pediatric anxiety rises above the occasional bad dream or worry about a monster in the closet. “All children experience anxiety at some level, but it’s how they manage it that’s important,” says Dr. Tieu. “We’re concerned about the type of anxiety that causes a child to shut down or fall short of their academic, social and family potential.” The sooner a child or teen begins treatment for anxiety and learns healthy ways to express emotions, the more likely they will be able to successfully manage the anxiety into adulthood.

“The demoralizing, negative experiences a child has as a result of their anxiety simply fuel and reinforce avoidance behaviors, causing anxiety to worsen over time because it’s not being addressed,” says Dr. Tieu. “With the help of the treatment team and evidence-based exposure therapy, children can create positive experiences by learning to control their anxiety with coping skills.”

Sometimes, parents believe their child will simply grow out of their anxiety. “Oftentimes, a parent has had their own anxiety since childhood, which is why they may minimize their own child’s symptoms or believe they can learn to manage it on their own,” says Dr. Tieu. “It’s a huge moment in therapy when a parent realizes how differently their adult life may have been if they had access to the treatment their child is receiving.”

As a parent, what should you do if you believe your child may have an anxiety disorder? Dr. Tieu recommends collecting observations on your child from multiple sources and in many different settings. “Parents have experience with their child in one primary setting: the home,” he says. “So it’s good to explore other settings. Talk with your child’s teachers, other parents and family members who are involved in your child’s life.” If anxiety-related behaviors are present across these different settings, Dr. Tieu recommends reaching out for professional treatment.

October 20, 2016 - 9:00am

Symptom Accommodation for Pediatric OCDExposure and response prevention (ERP) treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) isn’t easy, especially when you’re a child or teenager. Every day, your treatment team is asking you to face your worst fears and avoid using your repetitive behaviors or rituals to control your anxiety. Because treatment can be difficult, it’s necessary for parents to be actively involved in their child’s care plan and not participate in symptom accommodation.

“Symptom accommodation is the actions taken by parents, siblings, family members, friends, teachers and anyone who unintentionally reinforces a person’s OCD by catering to their anxiety,” says Stephanie Eken, MD, regional medical director at Rogers Behavioral Health. “Research tells us that at least 70% of parents or family members engage in symptom accommodation and I would say much of the remaining 30% probably aren’t aware they are accommodating.”

Common ways in which parents participate in symptom accommodation include:

  • Allowing a child to miss an activity because they’re anxious about it
  • Participating in a child’s ritual for them, checking and re-checking that doors and windows are locked
  • Assisting in a child’s ritual, purchasing a certain brand of soap in bulk at the child’s request or opening a door for a child who is afraid of contamination
  • Providing reassurance, answering a child’s repetitive questions to their exact standards, even if you don’t know the answer
  • Waiting for a child’s rituals to be completed or changing your schedule
  • Decreasing the child’s age-appropriate responsibilities, doing chores or homework for them

Parents accommodate for a variety of reasons. “Many parents have provided reassurance to their children without OCD and it worked for those kids,” says Dr. Eken. “But for children with OCD, providing reassurance is a time-consuming bottomless pit and will only fuel the child’s anxiety in the long-run.” Parents are also more likely to accommodate if their child has severe OCD symptoms or a disruptive behavior disorder, such as ADHD; there is a high amount of stress in the family; or if one or more of the parents has OCD.

In the beginning, parents may think they’re being too harsh for reducing their accommodation—or that’s it’s easier to soothe their child’s anxiety in the moment, especially if they’re having an outburst. “Several studies have shown that symptom accommodation can worsen or maintain a child’s symptoms because they’re never able to experience habituation,” says Dr. Eken. “When a child habituates, they get used to their anxiety over time and realize they have the ability to ride it out, without using their compulsion.”

Those with higher rates of family accommodation are also at a higher risk of having refractory OCD. “Refractory OCD is difficult to treat OCD and patients may not experience as great of symptom reduction,” says Dr. Eken. “But once families engage in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment and ERP, accommodation tends to decrease because it’s something we purposely discuss.”

So what should parents do? “At Rogers, we like to talk about parents as coaches,” says Dr. Eken. “When parents, the child and the therapist are a united front against OCD, the child can more easily receive motivation and consistent messaging. Parents help their child complete gradual exposures and process that their anxiety isn’t dangerous. It doesn’t feel good, but it can’t hurt them.”

It’s also important for parents to find time for themselves. “Reading a book, going on a date, doing something that has nothing to do with your child can help you be more present and energetic during treatment,” says Dr. Eken. “Support groups can also be helpful and allow parents to share their challenges and successes with others who understand their struggle.”

September 27, 2016 - 8:05am

MAT services in Brown DeerThis spring, Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer began offering a new program: Opioid Addiction Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). The program, which was designed specifically for adults with opioid addiction who want to add medications for reducing withdrawal and cravings symptoms into their care plan, has been well received by patients.

“Because every patient is dealing with opioid addiction, they can thoroughly relate to one another without judgment,” says Jeff Schroeder, alcohol and drug addiction counselor at Rogers–Brown Deer. “Opioid addiction is different from alcohol or other addictions and Rogers specializes in treating it.”

In a program like this, patients receive a comprehensive, evidence-based behavioral therapy treatment plan in combination with buprenorphine/naloxone. While other medications for opioid addiction are offered to patients in Rogers’ other, specialized outpatient programs for addiction and dual diagnoses, patients in the opioid IOP-MAT program are exclusively on preparation of buprenorphine/naloxone. This allows each patient individually to develop the foundation to prevent relapse and address obstacles to recovery.

Schroeder explains the program has experienced a spike in the number in patients seeking treatment earlier in their addiction, typically three to four years. “As compared to patients who have been addicted for 10 to 15 years, these patients often don’t feel the need to go to the same lengths in treatment because they haven’t experienced the same number of consequences,” says Schroeder. “This unique, eight-week program helps break down that minimization and denial.”

In addition to medication and therapy, family participation in bi-weekly education sessions has also been a key aspect of patient success for this new program. “Families are more connected to their loved one because they get a better idea of what they’ve been going through and how they can help them get well,” says Schroeder. “It also makes relapse less likely and supports more open communication between the family and patient.”

Tatjana Barisic-Dujmovic, MD, adult psychiatrist at Rogers–Brown Deer, says continuing care with outpatient programs that incorporates medications for opioid addiction is key. “When we have a referral from the community or one of our inpatient units, we do our best to admit that person into IOP immediately when they are seeking help,” she says. “If we don’t, they are more likely to relapse and feel that treatment is not accessible. Patients initiating treatment on their own is so precious that we want to use that opportunity to further engage them. It takes lots of courage to seek treatment.”

A psychiatrist sees patients upon starting the program, and will induct the patient on a buprenorphine/naloxone combination. This helps the patient cope with opioid withdrawal symptoms and cravings so that they can focus on learning coping skills in the group.

The opioid addiction program is longer in length – about eight weeks – than other intensive outpatient programs. “Our patients find it beneficial and would actually prefer to continue with the program even longer. For that reason alone, the program could be called a success,” says Dr. Barisic-Dujmovic. “And even though this is a difficult time, the majority of patients establish supportive relationships with one another and encourage each other to attend community meetings after leaving Rogers.”

Other MAT program options are available in various levels of treatment at Rogers’ locations in:

September 14, 2016 - 2:55pm

Christo Rey High School Draft Day 2016Four students from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Milwaukee have joined the staff at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer as part of their work/study program this school year. Through the nationwide network of 32 Cristo Rey schools, students receive professional work experience and defer the cost of their education by working one to two days per week at local businesses.

“We’re so excited for Rogers–Brown Deer to be a part of this program and get to know our students on a personal level,” says Carole Carter-Olkowski, academic and community engagement liaison at Rogers Memorial Hospital. “Our two high school freshmen and two sophomores are helping out in our staff development, purchasing and dietary and food services departments.”

According to staff, the Cristo Rey students and their enthusiasm have been a breath of fresh air. “They have been excellent,” says Ryan Geller, manager of culinary and nutritional services at Rogers–Brown Deer. “They have spent their first few weeks learning about Rogers and our services, along with what goes into the daily operations of a hospital.”

The students’ tasks include cost comparison, data entry, spreadsheets and invoices; filling orders; making deliveries; helping facilitate employee orientations and other administrative duties. “Often when students consider healthcare positions, they think they can only be a doctor or nurse,” says Carter-Olkowski. “But this program allows them to see the variety of positions involved in healthcare—especially the behavioral aspect—such as social work and counseling.”

Cristo Rey reports 32 percent of their 2008 graduating class have earned bachelor’s degrees, which is twice the national average for low-income students. “It’s important for us to help develop their skills, build their resumes and motivate them to attend college,” says Carter-Olkowski. “If they already have a sense of a career path they’d like to take and solid work experience, they’re more likely to finish college.”

But how do high school students prepare for these positions? In a five-week summertime business boot-camp, students receive training at Manpower, a human resource consulting firm. “Many of the students are already computer savvy,” says Carter-Olkowski. “But through Manpower, they receive additional technical classes in Excel, Word and Outlook, as well as confidentiality training through OSHA. At Rogers, they continue their training and gain lifelong skills.”

This August, Cristo Rey held a sports-inspired Draft Day, a special event where students found out which businesses they would work for. “To make sure each student has a positive experience, they complete a resume describing their interests and previous work history, and Cristo Rey matches them with an employer,” says Carter-Olkowski. “It was a really special day and we made Rogers hats and t-shirts with their graduation dates on the back.”

For Rogers, the Cristo Rey program offers a way to develop and keep valuable talent. “Next year, the students will decide if they’d like to remain at Rogers or experience a new business,” says Carter-Olkowski. “Sometimes, businesses offer their students internships or part-time positions because they’re so pleased with their work.”

Next year, four to five teams of students will also work at Rogers–Oconomowoc. “Now that more businesses in the area are participating, Cristo Rey will be able to bus students further west,” says Carter-Olkowski. “Our Oconomowoc managers have shown high interest in the program and we’re considering positions in our human resources, staff development and revenue cycle departments.”

Before officially joining the program, Brown Deer staff members were able to hear from Cristo Rey graduates who are now employed locally, as well as from employers who participated in the program last year. “It’s so inspiring to see the program keeps giving back to the kids,” says Carter-Olkowski. “The students build lasting relationships with their employers and as one of the leading behavioral health systems in the United States, I’m proud we can give back to the community in this way.”

Overall, there is a sense of excitement for what this new partnership will bring, especially among the students. “Everyone is very welcoming and take their work seriously,” says Jacki, a Cristo Rey student. “I really respect the work they do here at Rogers and I know this experience is going to be one for the books.”

September 6, 2016 - 8:10am

By Michael M. Miller, MDMichael M. Miller, MD, medical director of Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc

While methadone, naltrexone and other medications were approved decades ago to treat alcohol, opioid and tobacco use disorders in the United States, the controversy surrounding their inclusion in treatment plans unfortunately still remains.

Some clinicians believe medications are never appropriate and they simply substitute one addiction for another. Some grudgingly accept them as part of current approaches. Others view them as a major advance and new opportunity that wasn’t previously available to help individuals with substance use disorders. However, recent research and policies from professional and government organizations, such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), explain the best patient results occur when integrating medications and psychosocial treatments. In short, these methods are better together and the mindset that one is the right method is not helpful.

As clinicians, our own biases should not deprive people of alternative treatment options. To address this issue, a committee of national experts through the American Medical Association (AMA) developed performance measures for addiction treatment. Those measures state that every patient with an opioid use disorder should be informed by their clinician that both counseling and medications are available treatment methods.

Currently in the United States, most residential facilities for substance use disorders treatment don’t allow medications and some feel very strongly about defending the 12-step recovery method. At Rogers’ residential Herrington Recovery Center, we incorporate the 12-step recovery method and encourage involvement in 12-step groups. But, we also offer other evidence-based therapeutic methods in combination with medication management because we believe addiction treatment should not be an either/or approach to care.

Supporting the patient

We clinicians realize that many people with a history of prescription drug abuse don’t trust themselves with medications because they’re afraid they’ll lose control. But with structure and support from a well-informed treatment team, patients will be able to develop the confidence they need. Talking out the situation with the patient is also helpful, because it decreases the chances that he or she will act on those thoughts.

So how can we, as clinicians, provide the support our patients need and develop a balanced method for prescribing opioids? The AMA suggests developing a clear understanding of:

· The various forms of patient pain

· Addiction and the range of substance use conditions

· Balanced prescribing practices

· Connections among drug availability, patient vulnerability and addiction

· Improved pharmacotherapy of pain and pharmacotherapy of addiction

Of course, no one treatment works for every patient and medications are absolutely not a universal solution. Doing the hard work of therapy in combination with medication is the best, scientifically proven approach.

August 9, 2016 - 9:27am

Rogers InHealthIn a recent article published by Healthcare Business Insights (HBI), Rogers InHealth was acknowledged for its efforts reducing mental health stigma, prioritizing the voice of lived experience and improving quality of care through an evidence-based model.

“It was an honor for Rogers InHealth to receive recognition from HBI, considering their reputation for spreading best practice research and implementation resources across the healthcare industry,” said Suzette Urbashich, co-director of Rogers InHealth. “It’s a sign that we’ve been using an effective method to help people improve their outlook on mental health and eliminate the shame or stigma they were once challenged with.”

TLC4, the evidence-based model InHealth is based in, was originally created by the Illinois Institute of Technology and partnering behavioral health organizations. “TLC4 stands for: targeted, local, credible, continuous and change-focused contacts,” says Urbashich.

Targeted Contact
For people to feel comfortable reaching out for support and resources, our community must become aware of their biases toward people with mental health challenges. “People tend to experience stigma in different sectors of the community, such as a health care, faith-based, schools, workplace or civic groups,” says Sue McKenzie, co-director of Rogers InHealth. “Identifying sectors of our community that have a big impact on people’s lives and then targeting efforts to work directly with these sectors is crucial to any effort to increase inclusion and effective support.”

Local Contact
Every person has a method for learning which works best for him or her, because we process information differently. For InHealth, that means tailoring their approach for the various groups they serve. “One approach for reducing mental health stigma may not translate the same in a different community,” says Urbashich. “For example, we’re going to create a much different plan for Crivitz than we would for Racine, based on the different cultures of those communities.”

Credible Contact
Whether discussing mental illness or another topic, it always helps to talk to someone who genuinely understands what you’re feeling. “As humans, we’re more likely to accept what someone has to tell us when it comes from a trustworthy peer,” says McKenzie. “Someone who is a member of the targeted group will have the most profound impact on the rest of the group and will more easily shift others toward a more recovery-focused way of thinking.”

Continuous Contact
“When you’re trying to change the way you’ve been thinking about mental health for years, it takes more than just one event to change your mindset for life,” says Urbashich. Continuous contact emphasizes planning that offers many opportunities to get to know people in recovery over an extended period of time as a way to effectively change the way you perceive those with mental health challenges.

Change-focused Contact
The real test to determine if the targeted group has reduced their stigma during the process is to see if they act differently. “We might encourage a group to partner with local mental health groups, host a support group, or participate in another activity that has them spread the message they’ve come to accept,” says McKenzie.

“As we’ve offered consultation on the application of the TLC4 model to communities, they have found it to be very helpful guidance as they make plans to increase inclusion and support for all facing mental health challenges,” says Urbashich. “We’re looking forward to the positive mental health stories we’ll spread and the lives we’re going to touch in the future.”

August 1, 2016 - 2:38pm

Barry Thomet, IOCDF Service AwardOn July 30, Barry Thomet, local outreach representative, received the Patricia Perkins IOCDF Service Award at the 23rd Annual OCD Conference in Chicago, Illinois.

The award recognizes Thomet’s advocacy and dedication to individuals with mental illness and addiction through more than 20 years of service at Rogers Memorial Hospital. As the marketing liaison for the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), he’s made it his personal mission to acquire as many resources as possible to improve the lives of children, teens, adults and families affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

“Over the years, Barry has blazed a trail,” says Stacy McGauvran-Hruby, director of marketing at Rogers. “He served as Rogers’ first community outreach representative and spread the word about Rogers’ first OCD partial program, contributing greatly to the record number of people served.”

Not only is Barry invaluable to those he serves, but he’s a joy to his colleagues. “Barry’s overflowing, warm personality is contagious and his passion for helping those in need is inspiring,” says Jerry Halverson, MD, medical director of Rogers Memorial Hospital. “He’s gone above and beyond to ensure families experiencing a mental health crisis receive a clear picture about what they can expect in treatment at Rogers, as well as other local and national providers.”

“A little known aspect of Barry's work is that he is a great steward of treatment in general, not just Rogers,” says Paul Mueller, chief executive officer of Rogers Memorial Hospital. “His lightheartedness is complemented by the gentle demeanor he has with those who reach out to him. He knows the difficulty and challenges that individuals with OCD and other mental illnesses face, which makes him one of the best resources for guidance and understanding.”

Thomet also serves on the board of directors of OCD Wisconsin, an affiliate of the IOCDF. Last summer, OCD Wisconsin created a scholarship for local high school students with OCD in his name.

“It’s said that ‘everyone knows Barry,’” adds Mary Jo Wiegratz, national outreach manager. “Whether talking with a caller on the phone, touring a visitor, or connecting with patients and professionals who see his friendly face at the IOCDF annual conference, Barry Thomet has touched a lot of lives and made a difference.”

July 20, 2016 - 12:11pm

Theresa Rogers understood the benefits of gardening in the healing process. The wife of Rogers’ founder, Mrs. Rogers created a magnificent garden which, in the 1920s, drew busloads of people to visit what is now Rogers Memorial Hospital–Oconomowoc. Rogers was known throughout the Midwest for its beautiful landscaping and two miles of natural gardens.

Rogers in the 1920's

Rogers Memorial Hospital circa 1920.

Mrs. Rogers planted a living legacy which endures today. However, it took the perseverance of Rita Nolte to return the gardens to their glory and set the stage for an even greater vision which continues to evolve.

When Rita joined Rogers in the 1990s as a patient assistant, the gardens were dreadfully unkempt. She wanted our patients to have a serene view that could bring peace to their often chaotic health situations.

Moving Into Action

In 1990, Rita’s role was to monitor her patients’ emotions and assist in therapy. She would often look out the windows of the main hospital down into what was then called the kitchen garden, which was filled with raspberries, rhubarb and other produce grown in the era of Dr. and Mrs. Rogers.

But in 1990, the kitchen garden had grown wild. Rita was worried about what patients and visitors would think of the sight. “When patients are in distress, they don’t need more chaos,” she says. So, beginning in 1991, the then-patient assistant began volunteering two hours per day, two days per week pulling weeds with her own tools in what is known today as the center courtyard.

Finding Others Who Believed in the Mission

In 1992, Rita found two volunteers; she needed additional hands if big changes were ever going to be accomplished. “They did this all on their own time,” she says. “It was a real commitment by people who saw the spiritual nature of gardens, plant materials and how it could renew people,” she says.

Volunteers were given a free plant for every 2 hours of their time. “That particular practice is what I used throughout the rest of the restoration process,” she says, “If people helped, they went home with a plant.”

Rita took on another garden in 1993 located next to an old barn on the property, while still continuing to work on the center courtyard. By this time, Rita formed a sub-committee of volunteers and began planning a barn sale in September of that year to collect funds.

By 1994, Rita was forming a new dream and began collecting input for redesigning Rogers’ largest gardens—the Theresa Rogers Gardens. She formed a full committee to create an implementation process and in April, they held their first official meeting. By May, the center courtyard was complete and had a vegetable garden, grass center, flower bed and picnic tables for staff and patients to eat their lunches and enjoy the peaceful natural space. It was a total transformation from the weed-ridden patch Rita once looked at from the hospital’s window.

Original Urn

One of the original urns.

At the end of May, Rita spaded and weeded the front yard of the hospital. She planted flowers in two large empty concrete urns sitting at the hospital entrance, which were original to the grounds. Today, the urns, other original pieces and plants can be found in the Theresa Rogers Garden.

The Infancy of Horticultural Therapy at Rogers

In March 1995, Rita was approached by leaders of the adolescent residential program who found many teens enjoyed the outdoors and wanted to help Rita garden.

“Spending time in the environment was enjoyable for the patients,” she says. Adolescents wanted to help with everything from hauling brush to pulling weeds, all to enjoy the benefits of fresh air and planting.

Rita Takes her Cause to the Board

Rita made an appointment with the Rogers Memorial Hospital Board in April 1995 as her funds from the barn sale were quickly dwindling and she needed additional help to continue restoring the gardens to the original splendor that Theresa Rogers created. She explained her philosophy to the board, as well as the healing and spiritual properties of the gardens, saying, “We have 56 acres of property, we have trees, we have lake frontage, we have small ponds, but we have rack and ruined gardens.”

To Rita’s surprise, the board awarded her a large contribution for the renovation, which greatly surpassed her initial goal. She used these funds to maintain the landscapes she had created and worked diligently with patients and volunteers to keep up with the gardens.

In 1999, Nolte was awarded an even larger donation from the board and finally had enough funds to begin carrying out her master plan for the Theresa Rogers Gardens, which included a traditional English style matching the heritage of Dr. and Mrs. Rogers. The design process began that year and was developed by Margaret Harvey, landscape architect of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Dorset, England.

Keeping the Gardens Traditional

Like Dr. and Mrs. Rogers, Rita has English heritage. In 2000, she traveled to England for an authentic experience of English culture and to study the traditional gardens for her work in Oconomowoc. “Sometimes, we had to find similar alternatives to the English plants because the climate is different in Wisconsin,” Rita says.

Realizing the extent of the work ahead of her, in 2000 Rita moved from her recently acquired position in the purchasing department into a solely gardening position. She worked four to six hours per day, five days per week from March until November on her life’s passion of transforming the gardens to their full potential, which was finally reached in 2001. “Early on as a child, I read hero stories and I really wanted to do something to make a difference in this world, and I truly didn’t know that this was it until it was done,” she says.

Working in the gardens wasn’t just smelling the roses. The biggest challenge Rita faced was getting water access in the gardens. Before a pump was installed in 2012, she and other volunteers had to haul hoses to the gardens.

Stature dedicated to Rita

Statue dedicated to Rita Nolte.

Rita’s Final Reflection

Volunteers and patients not only helped build the gardens, but many have experienced the healing properties of nature that Rita stands by. She says one patient told her, “Pulling these weeds is like pulling the trouble out of my life.”

Another patient made discoveries about her own perfectionisms by working in nature. Rita notes, “She learned some plants die no matter what you do, and that’s not failure, that’s just the natural life cycle of a plant,” says Rita. “You can do the best you can and things don’t always turn out. She knew the gardens were still beautiful even though they may have had a few weeds or dead flowers.”

Rita credits her passion and knowledge of gardening to the teachings of her mother, grandmothers and grandfather. Regardless of the amount of time and work she put into the gardens at Rogers Memorial Hospital, she insists,

“The real story is the garden, I just happened to be in it and it was my privilege.”


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