Friday, March 28, 2008

5 Questions for Danielle Ennis, Therapeutic Supervisor

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Danielle Ennis
Job: Therapeutic Supervisor, Drug Diversion Court of Common Pleas Program
Time with BCI: 2 years

1. Who are your clients in the Drug Diversion program?
Our client base is generally 18-24, because it’s a first time offenders program. Sometimes this is the only thing that a client has ever been in trouble for. It’s a good program for people to keep their criminal record clean. We’re not a treatment program, we’re more of an educational program. Most of the clients are younger, and don’t have a whole lot of underlying needs that would prevent them from getting through the program, but if they do they can get their proper referrals.

We serve a lot of clients. We have about 250 active clients, and to have that many clients and run efficiently like we have, it’s pretty amazing. Our counselors have between 60 and 90 people on their caseload. We do see our clients every week, [and] I get to know a lot of them. You can’t save every person, you just have to give them the information to help them make better decisions.

2. What’s your responsibility as program supervisor?
I oversee the program, just make sure that everything runs smoothly as far as our relationship with the judge, and the counselors. I don’t do groups, but in case something comes up where a client has a problem that the counselor can’t necessarily address, if they need help with a referral, or there’s some sort of miscommunication, something that arises, I step in and help with that. Pretty much, help everything run smoothly.

3. What made you decide to work in the addiction treatment field?
I have a lot of addiction history in my family, so it was something that I was interested in. Honestly, when I applied for the job, I wasn’t really sure, because I started out as the court liaison, who’s the go-between, and talks in court for Brandywine. But I think the reason that I’ve stayed in it, just for the couple years I’ve been in the field so far, is because of family. I’ve had a long history of seeing how [addiction] can affect someone. With the Drug Diversion program, because most of the clients are marijuana users, that can sometimes be a stepping stone to something that could possibly be worse, like I’ve seen in my family.

4. What's been the most rewarding moment for you at BCI?
Seeing a particular client graduate, who I didn’t think would ever make it through. He had a lot of mental health issues, but we referred him to [Connections] where he needed to be. He always kept in contact with us, even though we weren’t the one providing any of the services, and he never really gave up. He would relapse here and there, and have to start over, as far as how many weeks of urine [drug tests] he had, but he never gave up. A lot of the clients end up giving up, and he didn’t, and he made it through finally. It took him about a year, which is a long time for a short term program. And when he graduated, it was great, because I knew that I helped him get the referral, and on to the agency, and see him go through, and it was really rewarding.

5. If you could introduce any new service at BCI, what would it be?
Efficient mental health. We have Gordon [Pizor, the psychologist] and we have other doctors that the [methadone] clients see, but our clients don’t usually see any of the psychiatrists here. Something that would be a little bit easier for our Drug Diversion clients to stay here with us, but also receive mental health treatment, like medication, and monitor that they are actually taking it. Mental health is huge, and a lot of times it can be hard when referring [clients] out. If they don’t want to follow through by going to a different agency, because they don’t feel comfortable, then it leaves us in limbo on what to do. So I would like to see more of a mental health piece at Brandywine.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dispensing Mural: Climb to the Top and Soar in Your Recovery

The Lancaster dispensing area has been livened up with a brightly colored mural, thanks to a group of volunteers from Chase. The team of a dozen people from the nearby Wilmington office took time out of their workday yesterday to give back to the community. In doing so, they’ve made the daily routine of coming in for medication more welcoming for nearly 700 methadone patients.

One wall depicts how we can turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones to climb toward recovery, using faith, help, health, and hope. The opposite wall is all about reaching the top of that climb and being ready to fly, because the sky is the limit when you’ve overcome your addiction. We think this is just the right mix of inspiration and fun to greet our patients every morning. And this is only phase 1 of the project, because now, our patients will get to add personal messages in the blocks to those who have helped them in their climb toward recovery.

We thank Rachel Aponte and her group of artists from Chase for this gift they’ve given us. For an afternoon’s work, they became part of the recovery process for today's patients and many more to come.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Faith and Recovery Strike a Match to Start The Lighthouse Program

Shay Lipshitz and Bishop Major Foster are an unlikely team. She is a strong-willed, outspoken, Jewish native of the Bronx, who overcame drug addiction to become a treatment program supervisor. He is an affable, modest Pentecostal preacher in rural Ellendale, Delaware, whose faith has moved him to nearly three decades of service to the underprivileged.

But after a chance meeting two years ago, they formed a partnership. The result was The Lighthouse Program for women and children, now open as a joint venture of Brandywine Counseling, Inc. (BCI), where Shay is Director of Sussex County Services, and Delmarva Clergy United in Social Action (DCUSA), where Bishop Foster is President.

The two found common ground in their passion for helping others in need. Both are quick to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to get a job done. Shay first met the Bishop and his staff at Philadelphia Pentecostal Holiness Church when she was looking for temporary housing for her clients at BCI’s Georgetown Center. DCUSA, the non-profit arm of the church, had been running a shelter home for over twenty years, along with child care, computer classes, and a GED program, and were looking to expand their services.

“The great thing is, when we got here, they already had plans on the wall,” Shay recalls. “They had blueprints. They already had a vision. They already wanted to do something.” So when state funding became available to start a residential treatment program, the pieces quickly fell into place.

“It fit like a glove,” says Bishop Foster. “They needed the place, and we had programs that they needed, so everything fit. We didn’t have counseling, we didn’t have the money we needed, so those two pieces made it a fit. It made it come together.”

That compatibility was evident in the plan they proposed to the State of Delaware, and they were awarded the funding. The next four months were a whirlwind of work to get up and running. The aging DCUSA shelter home was extensively renovated and expanded, transforming it into a modern and inviting residence. Staff were hired. More partners were brought on board, including La Red Health Center. On December 10, 2007, the program opened its doors, and within weeks, six women and seven children were living there.

“Those families would have been shattered,” without a place like this to go, says Shay. Many of the women delivered their babies while incarcerated on drug charges. “They would have been separated. And we know that all bonding occurs in those beginning months. They might have lost their kids to foster care or permanent adoption.”

“We knew that locking them up and putting them in jail wasn’t the solution,” adds the Bishop. “They needed some treatment and love which the prison couldn’t give.”

Up to 15 women and 20 children per year from throughout the state of Delaware will now get that treatment at The Lighthouse Program. The mothers will get help for their addiction, trauma, and mental illness, while taking classes in life skills, computers, and parenting. Children will get assessments, counseling, health care, and a safe space to learn, grow, and heal. The program uses evidence-based practices, or models that are scientifically proven to produce successful outcomes. Shay explains, “Here, they get to practice how they’re living. We’re able to mirror back to people when their behavior is inappropriate. In traditional outpatient treatment, you go into an office, its over in an hour, and you go home. Here, you’re practicing all those things with your community.”

It is all designed to bring about some intensive behavior change in a short time of 9 to 12 months. The program has different levels, each with its own responsibilities and privileges. There are structured activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At first, residents have limited contact outside the program so they can concentrate on their recovery. It may be up to six months before they may go out unsupervised. Before discharge, a transition plan ensures a return to the community with the strongest possible opportunity for continued recovery.

But as much as the program incorporates the science of addiction treatment, it also incorporates faith. Though their religious beliefs are different, Shay and Bishop Foster have passed on a strong sense of spirituality to the women of The Lighthouse. “We’re puttin’ a little God in ‘em!” says the Bishop with pride. “It’s a bad world out there, but they got God helping them.” Spirituality has a correlation with the 12 Steps of recovery, adds Shay. “The word God can scare people, and we tell people in the beginning, think of that as ‘Good Orderly Direction.’ You’ve been misdirected, you’re going all over the place. You need to rely on something else, something greater than you.”

On February 21, The Lighthouse Program was dedicated by Governor Ruth Ann Minner. Several of the residents spoke about how much the program meant to them. “This program has given me a second chance with my family,” said Sarah. “This program has helped me become a better woman and a better mother to my children.” Sherry expressed thanks for the opportunity to work on recovery while keeping her son. “When we’re here, we get to grow together. It’s very open, very loving. Everyone here is just here for us all the time.”

After the ceremony, Bishop Foster and Shay Lipshitz reflected on what they had achieved. “Words can’t express how we feel,” the Bishop said. “Because the fact is, we’ve done something that God wanted us to do, to help people. And when you do that, that’s the joy you feel inside, because you’ve just made somebody’s life happier.” Shay agreed. “It’s been exciting to see a dream, that was something that was thought about a few years ago, actually come to fruition, and today we gave birth to it, so it’s pretty exciting.”

“She’s the one that did it, I didn’t do nothin’, I was just here waiting for her to get here!” Bishop Foster laughed.

“Don’t let him fool you,” Shay replied. “He was on the backhoe! He raised up that building! I’ve never seen anybody work as much, and be a worker among workers. He’s been a real example to me. Something needs to be done, all you have to do is call the Bishop, and he’s on it.”

What they do agree on is that this partnership of a non-profit and a faith community was meant to be, and this is only the start of the good they can do. “We had a combined interest. They’ve been caring about people longer than I’ve been around in the field,” says Shay. “It’s just nice that we had matched missions and goals and worked together. There’s a wonderful church family here. They’ve been very supportive of our collaboration, and we’re excited.”

The Bishop believes higher forces brought them together. “We believe that it’s something that God did, because of the fact that I was missing something, and didn’t know what I was missing. When Brandywine told me, ‘Okay, let’s partnership together,’ hey, we didn’t know how it was going to work. But now, we can see, it fits. It fits.”

The Lighthouse services are funded by and are part of the system of public services offered by Delaware Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. For more information about The Lighthouse Program, please contact Denise Kitson at 302-424-8080.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lancaster Dispensing Mural Sketch

A group of volunteers from Chase will be painting a mural this week in the Lancaster dispensing area. The theme will be "Steps to Recovery," based on an idea by Edna Maldonado of NSAFE. I thought this idea was great as soon as I heard it, because it reminded me of Pat's testimonial from the needle exchange celebration, about extending hands two ways on the ladder of life. We are also giving clients a chance to get involved by adding their own personal messages to those who helped them in their recovery journey.

Here is a sketch.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Walk-Through At North Wilmington, Day 1

Our mock client had her intake this morning, and it actually went really well! My co-worker Nicolle gave an Oscar-worthy performance as "Nicole Jones," a dual diagnosed, divorced mom on Level 2 probation, addicted to alcohol and cocaine. She said afterward her story was a conglomeration of different things she's heard as a BCI assessor at Probation and Parole.

The staff were a little surprised to see us, so they kind of thought it was real at first. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and our intake counselor Maria was very thorough and genuinely interested in all that was going on. If that's how they treat a real client, they should pat themselves on the back!

There was not much that jumped out as far as needing process improvement. We thought the initial paperwork took too long, but that was our biggest complaint. "Nicole" signed up for a group next week and scheduled her first individual session, so maybe we will find something on our return trip.

The thing that really struck me as I sat and observed the assessment was how much courage it must take to walk into an office and talk to a stranger about all that is going wrong in your life and all the mistakes you've made. It gives me new respect for anyone who gets up the nerve to come in our door, as well as for the staff who listen to story after story every day. So, good job Maria, and kudos to all the clients who took that first step.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's Walk-Through Time: A Day In The Life of the Customer

One of the most interesting things I've gotten to do while working at BCI has been a walk-through of our treatment program from the client's perspective. Not only does it give me a point of view I rarely get to see, but it yields all kinds of useful information you just can’t get any other way. It’s been four years since we last did one, but now it is time again.

Tomorrow, at the Alpha North Wilmington Center, one of my co-workers will pose as a client seeking admission, and I will be their family member/observer. The idea is to experience the admissions process in order to more fully understand BCI’s strengths and limitations. Is the process working as intended? How easy is it to get treatment when you want it? Do we do as good a job as we think we do?

When we did this before, the answer has been, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Check out some of our actual findings:

From our methadone program in 2003: “Samantha called the Lancaster office to schedule a methadone intake. The receptionist told her to call back at 12 noon because ‘that’s when I make appointments.’ Samantha called a second time and said ‘I need to get on methadone.’ She was put on hold again, then disconnected.”

From our drug free program in 2004: “Diana attended orientation group at the Alpha Program. The group started fifteen minutes late, and the room was too hot. The facilitator read directly from the client handbook, gave rambling explanations, and did not have control of the group. The clients became frustrated and made disruptive outbursts like, ‘This program will take 10 years – it’s ridiculous!’”

We, the staff, were shocked that things like this were actually happening at BCI, but we went to work to fix it. At the methadone clinic, we shifted the triage process from the receptionist to the nurses, who could pre-screen people over the phone and direct them where to go. The result was that the wait for an appointment was reduced by half. At the Alpha program, we standardized the curriculum for orientation group, reassigned it to a more skilled facilitator, and began a streamlining process that eventually turned a 90 minute group into a ten minute video. This was how we launched the Paths to Recovery process improvement effort that continues today.

These were huge changes, and that is the payoff of going through the walk-through exercise. It is a must for any treatment program that truly wants to better understand its customer’s needs and do a better job at meeting them.

What will we find at North Wilmington? It’s anyone’s guess. Sometimes, the truth hurts, but it is worth it if it leads to real improvement.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Needle Exchange: 200 Enrolled!

The Needle Exchange team has enrolled our 200th client in the program. We now stand at 3,482 needles exchanged during 698 different exchange events. Over 80 referrals have been made, including 12 to methadone treatment. Five HIV positive clients have been identified on the needle exchange van.

Well done, team!

Friday, March 14, 2008

5 Questions for Wendy Geist, Assessor

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Wendy Geist
Job: Assessor, Probation and Parole/Alpha Program
Time with BCI: 1 year

1. You’re a BCI employee, but you do assessments on site at Probation and Parole. How does that work?
I’m here [at Cherry Lane] two days a week and I’m at Hares Corner two days a week. Everybody that comes in to see me is on probation. The probation officer does a referral form for us that includes collateral information regarding any previous mental health and/or substance abuse treatment.

Brandywine Counseling assessments at Probation & Parole are more for the convenience of the clients than anything. Instead of the P.O. giving the clients a list of places that they can go to for an assessment, they can go to our sign-in book downstairs and directly schedule the client for an assessment on site. Sometimes it works out pretty well for the client. They can see their probation officer and the assessor the same day so that they don’t have to make two trips.

2. What does an assessor’s job involve?
I do the mental health/substance abuse evaluations. We have other assessors that just do the substance abuse, but I do both pieces. I’m usually with people an hour and a half to two hours. I only see them one time, and then with what we find out through the evaluation, we make referrals as needed. I see up to three people a day, because it takes a couple hours to do each assessment, and then also to do the reports I have to do. So it’s kind of a simple day, but it can be time consuming, depending on what the client brings.

You have to be very nonjudgmental, because you’re not with clients for very long and you have a lot of information to gather. If you appear to be judgmental, clients won’t feel comfortable with you and they won’t be very forthcoming. So, you have to hide some of your initial reactions to some of the crimes that you hear that people have committed. You just can’t tell by looking at somebody what his or her history is. I’ve had people that are sex offenders. I’ve had people that have murdered people. I’ve also had people who have just been caught with small amounts of drugs. There’s such a wide range that you just never know what you’re going to encounter.

3. What made you decide to work in the addiction treatment field?
I have family history of addiction, I wanted to learn more about addictions, and I wanted to get my CADC. An opportunity opened up where I could come here and use my mental health background, and then learn on the job about the substance abuse piece. It’s interesting, a lot of times you have people that have mental health problems who self-medicate with illegal drugs. In my eyes, quite often, substance abuse and mental health go hand in hand. I’ve worked at other places where the primary focus was on mental health; they didn’t want to focus on substance abuse at all. I would prefer to do both. I think it’s important to teach other ways to handle psychiatric symptoms besides self-medicating with illegal drugs.

4. What has been the most rewarding moment for you at BCI?
I had a client who was suicidal, somebody that was in crisis. We were able to make arrangements for the family to take the client over to Rockford Center for crisis stabilization and an evaluation for treatment. That was a high point for me, because I felt like the system worked as it should. It might not sound like a high point, but in this field, I’ve found that sometimes it’s hard to place people with services in a timely manner, or to place people with services at all.

5. How do you get through the day doing work that can be draining and repetitive?
I like to have a peaceful place to function. Especially if you have to be at work so many hours, you want to be happy with your surroundings. I have a picture of my husband and me on our honeymoon in Jamaica. I have plants and flowers that I believe are pleasing to the eye. And then there’s music; for some reason, I can work better with music as opposed to silence. Then I’ve got my picture of the rainforest and waterfall; that’s my idea of the perfect place to go, where there’s no honking horns, there’s no telephone calls, there’s no TV, just a place where you can really be in awe of your surroundings, nature, and beauty. This office I just moved into at Cherry Lane is my own place, and to have a window, because I like natural light, this is heaven! I could stay here all week, that would be wonderful!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Remembering Wanda Furrowh

We at Brandywine Counseling were saddened to hear that longtime staff member Wanda Furrowh passed away on Monday March 10, 2008.

Wanda was our DFS Liaison. We will miss her greatly. She worked here since 1989 in many areas of BCI. Her death was sudden and her wonderful recovery and love of song and God will be missed.

Wanda's passion for the job and the clients was immense. Her clients could not have asked for a better advocate, or for someone who cared more than her about getting them the help they needed. She was a BCI icon and will be greatly missed by her friends, co-workers, and the clients.

Pictured at right you can see Wanda in the holiday spirit at our employee party, and this was typical of the fun she brought to BCI throughout the year.

Funeral services will be held on March 17 at the New Destiny Fellowship Church at 11 AM and viewing will begin at 9 AM. The church is located at 916 East 16th Street, Wilmington , DE 19802.

Volunteer Project: Videographer to Film "Virtual Tour" for Clients

Alpha Program, 2814 West 2nd Street, Wilmington

Do you have experience with a video camera? Are you looking for a fun project that will make a difference for people in need? Use your skills to help us connect people with treatment in a whole new way. Brandywine Counseling seeks someone to help us produce a “virtual tour” of our facility, showing people what to expect when they come in to get help for their addiction. Work with our staff to produce a welcoming and informative video that is accessible through our web site.

Experience is desired filming professional quality videos and editing to produce a ready-to-view product. Also, knowledge of how to incorporate the finished video into a web site.

This project is available weekdays during daytime hours.

We have a video camera available.

Apply here for this project

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Playground Update: One-Third of the Way To Our Goal!

A children's playground at The Lighthouse Program is one-third of the way to becoming a reality, thanks to your generous contributions! We have raised a total of $3,337 in three short months!

If you would like to donate, you can send a check using our mail-in form, or give online through JustGive or American Express. Another simple way you can help is to click the envelope icon at the end of this post and email this to five friends.

The playground will give kids who are temporarily displaced from the comfort of their own home a safe place to relax, release stress, laugh, and play. And happy kids means happy moms while they work on their recovery.

The Lighthouse Program means a great deal to the women living there. Sarah says, “This program has given me a second chance with my family. This program has helped me become a better woman and a better mother to my children.” Sherry calls the program a great opportunity to work on recovery while keeping her children. “When we’re here, we get to grow together. It’s very open, very loving, everyone here is just here for us all the time.”

With your donation today, you can be a part of these women's recovery.