Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Mengden.
Hi Susan, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Since I was a high school student, being a servant leader has resonated with me. I have always wanted to help and lead people in developing their potential professionally. I am good with numbers, so I earned an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. I went to work as an energy lender at a bank. There was no joy in that career for me, so I left the bank in Houston, moved to Boston, and enrolled in the counseling psychology Ph.D. program at Boston College. While in school, I worked at a psychiatric hospital that happened to have an eating disorder treatment program. That exposure led to my career-long passion for learning everything I can to help heal those suffering from these debilitating, life-threatening disorders. After working in the hospital for six years and earning my Ph.D., I returned to San Antonio. I realized there was no eating disorder knowledge or treatment community in South Texas. In the 1990s, only one hospital in Texas, located in Dallas, provided eating disorders treatment to children and adolescents. There was a tremendous need for eating disorder treatment in South Texas. I went to work for the military at Brooke Army Medical Center and started my first multidisciplinary outpatient eating disorder program there. My passion for leading and helping professionals develop was ideally suited for the team approach to eating disorder treatment. When I left BAMC, there was still only individual outpatient therapy treatment for eating disorders in South Texas. If an adult patient needed a higher level of care, i.e., more structure for weight restoration or stopping compensatory behaviors, they would have to leave the state. Sending adults far from home for treatment was hard, but it broke my heart to see parents having no option but to send their children thousands of miles away for the lifesaving treatment they needed. So, in 2007, I opened an outpatient treatment center called the Eating Disorder Center at San Antonio (EDCASA) with a business partner. In 2019, I took all I had learned from developing two eating disorder programs and drew upon the talented pool of local professional, most of whom I have trained in the last 30 years, to open Esperanza Eating Disorders Center.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Challenges have allowed me to see that if I follow my passion, things will turn out as they should. I have always been self-assured and confident with taking risks. I took the risk to start Esperanza because there was a need for an eating disorders center that matched the cultural demographics of our city. Patients bring their food from home to Esperanza instead of being served catered meals. We have bilingual staff (Spanish and English) and are sensitive to the cultural nuances’ patients bring to Esperanza. Over the years, I have utilized my talent by developing a motivated, compassionate team with expertise and similar passion. That team is the foundation of recovery for Esperanza patients. I have also created an atmosphere of collaboration with healthcare professionals in the community and across the country. Eating disorders require team treatment while at Esperanza and after completion of our program. Working with experienced professionals in the community greatly increases the probability of lasting recovery.
Throughout the years I have been confident enough to overcome the challenges of starting a independent eating disorder outpatient center. It has not been easy, experiencing the joy of recovery with patients has given me the motivation to forge ahead.
Thanks for sharing that. So, you could tell us a bit more about your business.
At Esperanza Eating Disorders Center, we aim to provide a supportive, empowering environment for eating disorder recovery. Our team of experienced, multidisciplinary clinicians utilizes evidence-based treatment approaches to provide individuals with a wide range of skills and healthy coping behaviors to guide them to a life of fulfilling recovery. As a locally owned facility, Esperanza can provide individualized care plans that are both effective and flexible. We treat all eating disorders and all genders, both adults and adolescents, starting at 13 years old and up. Our cornerstone philosophy is Recovery by Doing. Patients do not just hear about what to do; they get hands-on experience in recovery. Integrative therapies, grocery shopping, cooking, plating their meals, and activities like restaurant outings are all part of our hands-on approach to healing. I wanted to provide eating disorder treatment to people who could not afford it but had the desire and motivation to recover. We provide limited access for those unable to afford treatment by teaming up with Project Heal and starting the Eating Disorder Foundation of South Texas. EDFSTX is an organization that specializes in providing eating disorder education, awareness, and treatment access for our community. The Foundation is always looking for ways to raise money to increase funding for treatment scholarships, assistance with housing and food costs, and help with transportation costs to and from the center if needed.
Please talk to us about happiness and what makes you happy.
As the Executive Director of Esperanza, I am happiest seeing someone recover from their eating disorder. Receiving a thank you is gratifying. Eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate among mental health illnesses. People who come to us for treatment face life or death daily. My greatest joy is seeing a patient heal after working hard with Esperanza’s expert staff. At Esperanza EDC, we are in-network with Aetna, BCBS, Cigna, Community First Commercial, ComPsych, Humana, Magellan Health, Tricare, and United Behavioral Health. We will also accept private pay.
To schedule an assessment, contact Dessimber Daniels, LVN, and Intake Coordinator, at 210.253.9763
For more information on outreach and training opportunities, email Hallie Nikotich at hallien@EsperanzaEDC.com.
- Website: www.esperanzaedc.com
- Instagram: @esperanzaedc
- Facebook: @esperanzaedc
- Linkedin: Esperanza Eating Disorders Center
- Twitter: @Esperanza_EDC