A Real Alternative to Hospitalization for Patients in Crisis

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Published on April 06, 2017

A Real Alternative to Hospitalization for Patients in Crisis

Debbie’s Story


Debbie SousaDebbie Sousa is a perfect example of why Riverbend Community Mental Health established the Mobile Crisis Services program for people suffering a behavioral health crisis.

Before the program started in 2015, Deb was treated at New Hampshire Hospital at least once a month, after being a patient there for seven years.

As of autumn 2016, she had not been there for nearly a year. Over nine months, mobile crisis responders successfully evaluated Deb and helped her regain control at her home or in the new crisis apartments in Concord.

Instead of being hospitalized regularly, only twice was she treated at Concord Hospital’s Emergency Department Yellow Pod for behavioral health emergencies.

Debbie, who is 48, recalls one instance at a crisis apartment when staff professionals and peer support specialists, people who have successfully managed their own behavioral health issues, talked with her for hours on end to help her through a crisis.

“The peer counselors would tell me how they worked with their symptoms and how they helped themselves feel better,” she said.

Debbie’s mental health counselor, Roy DeWinkeleer, said the peer support specialists are the major factor in making the program a real alternative to hospitalization for patients in crisis.

“They are talking about their own stories, and particularly here in the crisis apartments, they have been absolutely essential in providing people with support, attention and feedback and listening,” said Roy.

Debbie stayed briefly at the crisis apartments twice in 2016. They offer each patient a room, with a shared kitchen and dining area and common space. She said going to a hospital while in crisis can be scary, but in the apartment, she felt relaxed. In crisis, Debbie used to injure herself a couple of times a month. Since she began calling on the behavioral health professionals and peer support available around the clock at the Mobile Crisis Services program, she’s felt safe, with only one such episode in seven months. She said the program, especially the peer counselors, have inspired her.

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"I always thought of myself before as a failure because I had a mental illness, but when I see the peer support counselors here, it gives me hope that someday my life won’t be as bad and maybe I will be able to help people like they do." ~ Debbie Sousa