Newark cri­sis cen­ter pro­vides first step to­ward re­cov­ery

CEO: ‘It’s more like a re­treat than an in­sti­tu­tion’


Spe­cial from the Newark Post

— Le’Ke­sha Ashe, 27, has fought de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety for most of her life, so it’s easy for her to iden­tify with and un­der­stand peo­ple go­ing through sim­i­lar crises.

That’s why she and other cer­ti­fied peer spe­cial­ists play an in­te­gral part in the new RI In­ter­na­tional re­cov­ery re­sponse cen­ter near Newark, which pro­vides a first step to re­cov­ery for peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a sub­stance abuse or men­tal health cri­sis.

“We use our lived ex­pe­ri­ences to sup­port the peo­ple we serve,” Ashe said. “They look at you like, ‘Wow, you’ve been there be­fore.’”

The shared ex­pe­ri­ence can help the peer men­tors break through to the pa­tients.

“A lot of time, they come in and a wall goes up,” Ashe said. “We go talk to them, and they let the wall down.”

Since open­ing a month ago at 659 E. Ch­est­nut Hill Road, next to Au­gusta Square


Shop­ping Cen­ter, the cri­sis cen­ter has al­ready served 50 peo­ple. At an open house Tues­day af­ter­noon, state and lo­cal of­fi­cials hailed the cen­ter as a new model for treat­ing men­tal health in Delaware.

“It’s a great first step,” said Michael Bar­bieri, di­rec­tor of the Delaware Depart­ment of Sub­stance Abuse and Men­tal Health. “A hu­mane, com­fort­able, re­lax­ing first step.”

The cen­ter, which can ac­com­mo­date 16 peo­ple at a time, op­er­ates on what CEO David Cov­ing­ton calls a “liv­ing room model.” The main area of the clinic looks much like a liv­ing room, with cushy chairs ar­ranged in clus­ters and a tele­vi­sion set and com­put­ers avail­able for use. Pri­vate rooms con­tain re­clin­ers, not beds.

Clients – who cen­ter of­fi­cials re­fer to as “guests” in­stead of “pa­tients” – can check them­selves in, be re­ferred there by med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als or be dropped off by po­lice of­fi­cers. The cen­ter keeps peo­ple for up to 23 hours of ob­ser­va­tion be­fore on-duty psy­chol­o­gists, nurses and peer spe­cial­ists de­ter­mine the best next course of ac­tion.

“It’s more like a re­treat than an in­sti­tu­tion,” Cov­ing­ton said. “That makes a dif­fer­ence.”

The more ca­sual at­mos­phere is less in­tim­i­dat­ing for a per­son in cri­sis than spend­ing hours in a hos­pi­tal emer­gency room or be­ing thrown in a hold­ing cell, and med­i­cal staff and peer spe­cial­ists work to­gether to help the per­son calm down.

Only about one-third of clients have to be moved to a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal, while the rest can be sent home or re­ferred to other ser­vices, Cov­ing­ton said.

The fa­cil­ity is the 10th re­cov­ery cen­ter opened by RI In­ter­na­tional, and the sec­ond in Delaware. The other Delaware lo­ca­tion, which opened in 2012, is in El­len­dale.

The cen­ter bills pri­vate in­surance and Med­i­caid when avail­able, and the state pays the rest of the bills, he said. The state has bud­geted up to $4 mil­lion a year for the Newark fa­cil­ity.

Cov­ing­ton said the fa­cil­ity is also de­signed to help po­lice of­fi­cers, who un­der pre­vi­ous mod­els, of­ten had no choice other than to take a per­son in cri­sis to an emer­gency room, where the officer of­ten has to spend sev­eral hours wait­ing with the pa­tient. How­ever, at RI In­ter­na­tional, of­fi­cers en­ter through a ded­i­cated en­trance and turn over cus­tody of the per­son to staff in a process that only takes about five min­utes.

Deputy Chief Kevin Feeney, of the Newark Po­lice Depart­ment, said his of­fi­cers deal with peo­ple suf­fer­ing from men­tal health or sub­stance abuse is­sues nearly ev­ery­day and wel­comes the nearby cri­sis cen­ter.

“We’re very ex­cited,” Feeney said, not­ing the new fa­cil­ity is more con­ve­nient and saves of­fi­cers time. “It’s a huge ben­e­fit for our guys. Our turn­around time be­fore was 10 times that.”

Mayor Polly Sierer said the cen­ter is much-needed in the Newark area, and noted that when she toured the fa­cil­ity, she rec­og­nized one of the pa­tients as a home­less man who fre­quents Main Street.

“We do have folks who need as­sis­tance, and this will be a great bridge for them to take the first step and move for­ward,” Sierer said.

As the cen­ter was be­ing built, some res­i­dents of sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods ex­pressed con­cern about the clien­tele it would at­tract. How­ever, Cov­ing­ton em­pha­sized that pa­tients can­not come and go as they please, and leave through a “co­or­di­nated dis­charge.” State Rep. Ed Osien­ski, who rep­re­sents the area, said he be­lieves most of the con­cerns were as­suaged.


The RI In­ter­na­tional cri­sis re­cov­ery cen­ter is de­signed to look more like a liv­ing room than an in­sti­tu­tion.

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