Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankful for "Another Year to Be Here"

Today, as we do each year, Brandywine Counseling distributed Thanksgiving food baskets for our clients and their families. The outreach staff gave out 168 baskets this year. The food was supplied by the Basket Brigade of Delaware, a volunteer organization that delivers food to families most in need, in time for Thanksgiving. They target families who may have fallen through the cracks of other support systems and are in need.

Several recipients took some time to talk with me about what it meant to get this help. One had this to say:

What does it mean to you to get a Thanksgiving basket? It’s a pleasure to get one and I’m very thankful and blessed that we could receive a turkey from BCI.
What were you planning to do for Thanksgiving if you hadn’t gotten a basket? Nothing.
Is the economic downturn affecting you? Yes it is. Financially, physically, emotionally.
Who are you spending Thanksgiving with? With my daughter, my grandkids.
What are you most thankful for this year? For getting a meal for Thanksgiving. And to be here. Another year to be here.

Another recipient had this message to share:

"I’ve been with BCI for the last 12-13 years, and I am so happy. They have helped me with everything. This turkey helps me and my family to appreciate Thanksgiving, and that’s the way I was raised. I also want to say thank you to my driver. She made it possible for all her clients to be here. She went home and got her own transportation, just to come and pick us up, so we all can have a nice Thanksgiving. And I thank God, and bless you, and may you have a blessing on your day."

Oxford House to Expand Delaware's Recovery Housing

In case you missed it, the News Journal ran an article on the planned expansion of Oxford House from 3 to 14 recovery houses in Kent and Sussex County. Included were some impressive stats on how effective the houses’ approach is:

A 2005 study by DePaul University tracked nearly 900 people in more than 200 Oxford House programs for 27 months, and found that more than 80 percent had stayed clean and sober, Malloy said.
Also, resident Jim Martin shared his inspiring success story.

"It's just an amazing gift, to wake up in the morning and be sober, and know my guys are going to help me keep sober," he said.
Oxford House is clearly making a difference. It’s good to know they will be expanding so more Delawareans in recovery can take advantage of what they offer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

5 Questions for Carla Woods-Ashley, Billing Technician

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: Carla Woods-Ashley
Job: Billing Technician
Time with BCI: 10 years

1. Tell us what you do at BCI.
I’m a billing technician. I take the services that the Medicaid clients have performed, and I bill them to the insurance companies, so that we can get reimbursed for payment. Each day is different. During the first couple weeks of the month, the volume is really high, because we’re always billing a month behind. So by the time we get all those bills, we’re usually in the second or third week of the month. Then around the third week, it starts to slow down. Then we’re starting to get ready for the next month at the end of the month.

Sometimes the volume of it can be really large, especially when a lot of new clients are coming in, or based on different changes the insurance may make. If they change anything, that affects how we are able to bill, so that can be a little tedious. We have to be mindful of codes, and making sure it’s the right provider that’s doing the services. You have to be very mindful of details, and understanding the various aspects of the different insurance companies, because most times, no two insurances are the same as far as the way they want things billed. So you have to really be able to grasp and understand what you can bill for and what you can’t.

2. Why did you decide to work in the addiction treatment field?
My background is in psych mental health. I worked for over twenty years for a mental health MRMH facility. After working there full time for years, I was looking for a change, and I started counseling women at a drug and alcohol facility for women. And I enjoyed it, but I still wanted another change. So with the understanding of how the addiction works, I got into the billing aspect of the field.

3. You can tell a lot about a person from their office. Tell us what you have in your office.
I try to surround myself with positive thoughts, Godly thoughts that will encourage me, and surround it with my family and friends.

4. You mentioned your work can be tedious, so what makes it worthwhile?
When it gets done! At end of the day, when it’s done, and you know that, “Okay, I got through that,” that’s a good thing.

When I look at what I do, we don’t have a lot of interaction with the clients. Our contact with them is very minimal [except] on occasions when there’s a problem with their insurance, if they’ve lost it, and they in turn have to pay. I recently talked with a client. She had called me and she was really upset about it. So to be able to talk to them, to try and help them to resolve it. Or sometimes, they’ll worry about things that haven’t happened. So when I can reassure them, and let them know that you can work towards whatever it is you have to do. Showing them that no matter what’s going on with them, they can get through it. Or somebody’s just calling wanting to know where they need to go in order to get treatment, I can direct them in the right direction. That makes me feel good.

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI what would you do with it?
If I had a particular area that I would want them to focus on, it would be the women and children. Because the need, especially with the children, I think is a great one. And whatever they can do in that area, in order to help the women to be more successful in their recovery, then that’s what I would want it to be focused on.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Great American Smokeout 2008

Today, the third Thursday of November, is the Great American Smokeout. This annual, nationally recognized health observance day was founded by the American Cancer Society in 1976. An estimated 15 million smokers are taking part.

Here are the rules according to quitsmoking.com:

You just quit smoking for the 24 hours of the Smokeout. The wonderful thing is that you won't be alone; you can swap advice, jokes and groans with the other "quitters," nonsmokers and the American Cancer Society volunteers who will be cheering you on. Even if you don't go on to quit permanently, you will have learned that you can quit for a day and that many others around you are taking the step, too.

And from SAMHSA, here is some information and resources to help smokers:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)offers many resources and tools such as RSS feeds, podcasts, and a public health image library. If you’d like more information on smoking and health, contact CDC at 1-800-232-4636 or tobaccoinfo@cdc.gov.

  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI has many online resources and information regarding tobacco and cancer, including clinical trials, prevention, statistics, research, literature, and more. If you have a question about cancer, call NCI at

  • Smokefree.gov offers online guides about quitting, expert help via phone or instant messenger, and print resources. Visitors can chat with an NCI smoking cessation counselor using the LiveHelp system. Call from anywhere by dialing 1-877-44U-QUIT, or dial 1-800-QUITNOW for in-state assistance.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BCI Supports "Delaware Does More" with Food Drive

Today Brandywine Counseling begins a food drive to support Delaware Does More and help our neighbors in need get through this winter and the economic crisis. Over the next month, our staff will be collecting as much food as possible.

We're also going to compete as teams by taking photos with the food we collect. The most creative photo will win a prize, and they will all be posted here.

If you're a friend of BCI, you can take part in our drive by bringing in non-perishable food to any of our locations by December 18. Or better yet, start your own drive at your business, club, or school. With your help, we can meet this challenging goal. Here are some food drive ideas from Delaware Does More:

CANstruction: build simple or elaborate sculptures using canned goods. Encourage teams to compete with one another to boost awareness and participation.

Food Day: designate days of the week for specific foods, i.e. Macaroni Monday, Tuna Tuesday, Wheaties Wednesday, Turkey Thursday, Fruity Friday.

Special Dress Day: participants "pay"with food to dress a special way.

Let’s SAC Hunger or TGIF (Take Groceries in Friday): provide brown bags for participants to take home and fill with food or encourage them to bring a brown bag lunch and donate the money they would have spent on a purchased lunch.

Bag Hunger Auction: participants collect auction items from home, "sell"admission tickets (cost of ticket = food item), hold the auction and then the proceeds benefit the Food Bank of Delaware’s hunger-relief efforts

Challenges/Competitions: contests can raise awareness and participation.
Some ideas:
Largest individual donation
Most protein
Most unusual food item
Most original design for a food barrel
Raise our weight in food

Monday, November 17, 2008

We Need Old Laptops

Brandywine Counseling is trying to collect 2-4 old used laptops to use on our needle exchange van to keep notes as we do our outreach work.

Laptops need to have an AC adapter and a USB port. The battery can be dead, and it does not need a CD drive!

If you have a laptop to donate or know someone who does, please call Basha Silverman at (302) 655-9880, ext. 22, or bring it in to the Linda DeShields Outreach Center, 2814 Lancaster Avenue. Donations are tax-deductible and would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Delaware Does More: Neighbors Helping Neighbors All Winter Long

Brandywine Counseling has joined a new community-wide initiative to meet an anticipated significant spike in demand for social services in Delaware this coming winter. Delaware Does More is a community-based strategy, jointly proposed by United Way of Delaware and The Food Bank of Delaware:

“You’ve heard the news accounts. Job losses. Foreclosures. Spiking oil prices. The global credit crisis has come home to Delaware.

When there’s no work, there’s no money. No food. No heat. No way to pay the rent, or the mortgage. For a rapidly increasing number of Delawareans, this is the new reality.

It’s the perfect storm—at the perfectly worst time of the year: Winter.

Delaware is bracing for what many expect will be a dramatic surge in demand for assistance with food, shelter, and heat this winter. Demand that is above and beyond the norm. Demand that we cannot meet with current resources.

What can we do collectively to aid our friends and neighbors—perhaps even our own family members—this winter?

The answer is Delaware Does More. An emergency food and funds drive to ask those who live and work in Delaware to give more, help more, care more. Now more than ever.”

Delaware Does More has two goals:

1. FOOD - Between November 2008 and January 2009, generate 300,000 pounds of donated food via a series of “Delaware Does More” food drives throughout the state.

2. HEAT AND SHELTER - Between November 2008 and January 2009, generate $250,000 in incremental contributions to fund utility and shelter assistance in Delaware.

This initiative asks all Delawareans to help meet these goals: Businesses, schools, faith-based groups, social and civic clubs, neighborhood associations, sports teams, and individual families. We are asked to be creative, be aggressive, and be involved.

How can you help? Here are a few ways:

1. Collect as much shelf-stable food as possible, as quickly as possible. Contact The Food Bank at (302) 292-1305 or www.fbd.org for information.

2. Help raise incremental funds toward the utilities and shelter goal (over and above what you may already have contributed to United Way or other groups) as quickly as possible. For more information, contact Monique Chadband at United Way at (302) 573-3762.

3. If you’re a business organization, educational institution, or faith-based organization, there are many ways you can help, including fund or food raising drives, email messages, or special activities like a bingo night or pancake breakfast. For more information, contact Monique Chadband at (302) 573-3762.

We at BCI think this is a great idea. We know that the people we serve are among those most in need of help, and so we strongly support Delaware Does More and look forward to being a part of this effort. In the coming days, we’ll decide how we can best support the initiative. I encourage you to help any way you can.

At this morning’s press conference, Patricia Beebe of the Food Bank recited some lines from the speech given earlier this week by President-elect Obama. I am going to follow her lead because his words truly speak to the job ahead of us:

“And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

“And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.”

5 Questions for Darlene Pezzullo, Nurse

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: Darlene Pezzullo
Job: Nurse, Newark Center
Time with BCI: 4 years

1. How did you get started in the field of addiction treatment?
I have been a nurse for 37 years. The first few years I worked in the Medical Surgical Department of a Hospital and then a Geriatric Rehabilitation Center as a Treatment nurse. Then the next 20 years were spent as a Case Manager for USHC, AETNA and Cigna Medical Insurance Companies. I had spent so many years behind a desk working in an office, I felt that I had lost the one on one contact with clients. I missed that. Don't get me wrong, I loved nursing no matter how I could care for my patients, but I truly missed the hands-on aspect of nursing.

In 1998 my husband and I relocated to Delaware from Northern New Jersey. I landed a job at Upper Bay Services and Counseling, I worked in the Sunrise program, which was responsible for the direct care of clients being discharged from long term psychiatric facilities and reintroduced to society. This program allowed me to get directly involved with patient care again. After 3 years, the program closed down and I took a job with Northeast Treatment Center’s Kirkwood Detox. This facility offers a short term, inpatient detox program for alcohol and drugs. This was my first taste of the addiction field.

One of the part-time nurses I worked with at Detox was Ena Dryden, a full-time nurse at BCI Lancaster site. She informed me that a new facility of BCI would be opening down at the Riverfront for opiate addiction. We discussed the methadone program and what Brandywine had to offer in services to opiate dependent clients, and I was extremely interested, so I was eager to interview for the position. And, here I am 4.5 years later, happy, content, loving my job, my co-workers and the wonderful relaxed atmosphere of the Newark site.

The typical day at the clinic starts around 4:30 in the morning, getting the dispensing pumps ready with methadone, preparing the clinic for new intakes, preparing the exam room for yearly physicals. The nurses observe urines for drug screens scheduled for the clinic as well as the Drug Diversion Program. We offer Suboxone, and alternative choices for clients for opioid treatment. Our department is responsible for keeping accurate medical records on our clients. I assist Dr. Glick with his appointments of clients who see him for continued prescriptions of psychotropic medications.

I think I have a very good open relationship with my clients. I greet them in the morning with a smile, ask them how they’re feeling, and what’s going on with them in their daily lives. I remind the clients of the positive choice they have made by facing their addiction, and taking the right action to better themselves and their families. And that there is "Always Light at the End of their Tunnel."

2. What would people be surprised to know about your job?
That methadone really does work! Through education, counseling and taking methadone, we have seen clients be able to regain their life back, employment, and a happy home.

We are a staff of dedicated, compassionate nurses and counselors who come to work every single day and face our clients with a smile. We watch some succeed in the program, move on to the 30-day program, or no longer need our services. We have done our jobs! But, for the ones who fail, we are here to pick them back up with a smile, and without judgment. They’re no different than we are. Everyone has a story of how their addiction was started and OUR job is to listen and offer the best services and help we can give. I would encourage any nurse with an interest in the Drug and Alcohol field to come and look at the methadone program. These are people just like us. They have their own problems. We’re not here to solve them, we’re here to help them as much as we can, through education.

3. The Newark site had a 25% increase this year in number of clients who had stayed in opioid treatment for one year or more. What do you think is the reason for this?
Dedication of the Newark Staff! We have wonderful, caring, compassionate nurses, concerned and well-educated counselors and a clinic which offers treatment with a smile. Why wouldn't a client want to come our clinic? We care. We offer methadone, counseling, psychiatric treatment and medical care, all wrapped up in one. We are a well-rounded treatment facility. We have made our clients feel comfortable and safe. This type of caring from our staff has allowed us to be the BEST in the industry.

4. Many of our staff express their personality in how they decorate their office – tell us what you have at your work station.
I’m a big New York Giants fan. I’m from northern New Jersey, I grew up right outside the Meadowlands. I have a NYG coffee mug and I hang up newspaper clippings of NYG game highlights, if I can get away with it! With almost every man that walks up to my dispensing window during the football season, we can talk about the teams, players and standings! And I think, they think that’s kind of neat.

I am also known to have holiday decorations in my window, beanie babies, Easter bunnies, St. Patty's pot of gold, Xmas tree, but the best of all is my four stuffed Dwarves named Grumpy, Doc, Dopey, and Sleepy. My office space isn't that big (it's a dispensing window area), but what I have definitely entertains the children while their parents are getting medicated. I like to think I put a smile on everyone's face and it makes their day brighter! "

5. If you had $30,000 to donate to BCI what would you do with it?
I would use the money for a salary for a Prenatal Counselor and/or Case Manager at the Newark site. We have had many young women deliver babies this past year, and they struggled during and after delivery with being on their own, abandoned by their husband, boyfriend, loss of housing, insecurities, mental issues, and facing their own addiction, and difficulty understanding the withdrawal process of their newborn. Our facility could use the education and expertise to help educate and direct these young women. There are many new fathers as well, who could use help with understanding the complete role of parenting. With the addition of a prenatal counselor, it would allow our team at Newark to be versatile and well rounded in all phases of care with our clients.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Women Get Free Breast Cancer Screenings at BCI

The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition was at the Brandywine Counseling Lancaster Avenue Center today providing free mammograms. Between 9:00 and 3:00, 19 female clients and staff took advantage of the service. Many of the clients would not otherwise have been screened. Some were unable to read or write.

Evelyn Handley, receptionist at BCI Alpha, coordinated today’s event. She stepped away from her desk for the day to get the women out to the van, sit with them to help fill out their paperwork, and make everybody feel comfortable. Evelyn had this to say:

“This was a great opportunity for a lot of the women. A lot of our clients here don’t have primary physicians, so [nurse practitioner] Chris Zebley and Dr. Glick were amazing today. They were the ones writing the prescriptions for them to be able to be seen today, and Brandywine Counseling and I are very appreciative of that.

“Melany and Laura [from the Breast Cancer Coalition] were very kind to me, helping me put this together. When I called back to explain about our clients and how early they come here, they were willing to come here an hour earlier, and they did. The nurses here on the vehicle, they’re so kind, they’ve been very patient, because they had no idea it was going to be this many people this fast in the morning. We had the first 12 people show up before 10:30. All of our women have been screened, and I’m appreciative of that. This has been a lot of fun.

“I’d like to thank Chris Zebley first and foremost, and Joyce Bunkley, and Dr. Glick for allowing this to happen. Also Sally Allshouse, who was all for this, and Lynn Fahey and Mark Lanyon helped as well. Also I’d like to give some credit to one of our counselors, Daniel Norvell. This was his idea, I just took on the task, and we got it done!”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

BCI Gets Out the Vote

This year, Brandywine Counseling helped give people in recovery a voice in the election. 23 of our clients at BCI Alpha registered to vote after counselor Susan Anderson posted instructions and a sample ballot. Today is the day! Vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Volunteer Spotlight: Sara Bergamo, Alpha Program

Sara Bergamo is a University of Delaware student spending 400 hours interning with BCI Alpha. In the following Volunteer Spotlight, she talks about her experience in her own words:

I first heard about Brandywine Counseling from a friend I went to school with, who said that BCI was always looking for help from volunteers. I decided to do my internship at Brandywine because I would like to work in the substance abuse field in the future. I liked the clinical aspect of this work and the ability to form therapeutic relationships with clients. I thought volunteering at Brandywine would be eye-opening and a great experience.

Before starting at BCI, I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous because of the stigma that is sometimes attached to this type of work. After starting here, I learned what a great environment BCI is. Everyone who works here is nice, helpful, and very appreciative of the hard work that everyone does. The clients are honest, understanding, and receptive. Brandywine is a very caring work environment. You can really tell that the employees love the work they do and care about both their clients and one another.

While at BCI, I worked in the Alpha building with the outpatient treatment program. I helped counselors write treatment plans, discharge summaries, and progress reports. I also briefly met with clients when their primary counselors were not available, and helped run group sessions. My experience at BCI has been a great one. I’ve learned so much about how to help and reach out to clients. It has opened my eyes to the world of addiction and how difficult recovery is. Talking to people and learning about their experiences, hardships, and triumphs has proven to be incredibly rewarding.

I will take a great deal from my experience at BCI. While this started as an internship to learn about a career in drug and alcohol rehab, it became so much more. Everyone who works here has been patient with me, and has helped me learn a lot. The thing I will most take away from my time here, though, are the bonds that you form with people. Learning about clients on an individual basis has been great, and being able to ask things like, “How are the kids?” or “Did you move into your new house yet?” gives a feeling of connectedness that can’t be matched.

Getting involved has given me a sense of accomplishment and happiness. It feels great to know that I have been able to use my time to benefit both myself and others. Brandywine has truly been a great learning and growing experience, and I’m glad that I’ve gotten to work with the staff and clients here.