by Stephen Larcen, PhD
We all know someone who has experienced a mental health crisis or struggled with an addiction. We may not talk about it much, but that often means only that we do not know the symptoms to watch for, or where to get help when we need it. In an emotional crisis, the doctor might suggest getting help from one of Natchaug Hospital’s treatment programs, but this doesn’t mean that the patient or friends or relatives must drive an hour just for an assessment, or stay overnight in a hospital for weeks: Thanks to a network of community-based services, care is closer to home — and has better outcomes — than you might imagine.
Recovery is the focus of behavioral health care today, and new treatment options help people sustain independent, fulfilling lives. Just as a person with diabetes or heart disease may need to learn how to adjust their activities in order to maintain their health, so do those living with mental illness and addiction need to learn how to adjust their own lives to sustain their recovery.
The average time a person spends in the hospital (which used to be 30 days, 60 days or even longer) is now about a week. This shift recognizes that recovery is more sustainable when people are learning and practicing their recovery as part of their regular lives.
Each day, an average of 50 people are at Natchaug Hospital for inpatient treatment, while on that same day 454 people are recovering through treatment in a day or evening treatment program while living at home, often while keeping up with work and family responsibilities.
Even addictions to opioid-based drugs can now be effectively treated through a combination of a medication (Suboxone®) and counseling. Natchaug’s morning and evening programs have helped addicted persons recover, for example, from dependence on painkillers that began as legitimate prescriptions after surgery.
For children, after-school treatment programs help them and their families learn how to manage and recover from the child’s illness. Parents are grateful when their children can be picked up at school by one of Natchaug Hospital’s 38 vans to attend after-school intensive therapy at one of six community-based programs, where emotionally disturbed young people and their families learn how to manage and recover from their illness. Natchaug’s special education programs for emotionally disturbed youth work in conjunction with local education authorities when in-district options can not meet the child’s needs.
Natchaug has the most extensive array of community programs of any hospital in Connecticut, with ten programs sited in eight communities throughout Eastern Connecticut. Just as the need for local treatment has expanded, so the offer of local treatment has been extended by Natchaug’s programs that make accessible the advances of new learning on effective practice that can lead to recovery.