Crisis Services Prove to Be Life-Saving Option

The glass and metal doorway at Monarch’s Lumberton Facility-Based Crisis Center, 207 West 29th Street, has been witness to all walks of life crossing the threshold. They walk through with a hope to receive support to overcome a substance use disorder (SUD) or a mental health crisis, or at times, both.  

People seeking help are opting for a healthier way of life through a treatment program offering therapy and possibly prescription medication management that will assist in their recovery. Some people served will move on to other inpatient or outpatient treatment centers following their stay.
 
For Lumberton FBC Program Director Kellie Thompson, BSN/RN, QP, what she sees in the clinical setting proves that mental health struggles and SUDs do not discriminate. “A lot of people come through our door feeling hopeless, defeated, embarrassed. They have burned all their bridges. For many of them, their family does not have contact with them. They have lost marriages, jobs, children,” Kellie explains.
 
Lumberton FBC services are two-fold: one that offers a non-hospital, medical detox program for individuals with SUD issues and the second that treats people experiencing a mental health crisis, at times in combination with an SUD. For some, the detox process can be in depth with associated withdrawal side effects however a number of substances do not have physical side effects. The typical length of stay at the Lumberton FBC is seven to 14 days.

For People Seeking Recovery, Rock Bottom is Different for Everyone

Kellie sees people in a mental health crisis or battling addiction seeking support for many different reasons – the loss of their job, homelessness, severed relationships with loved ones, seeing someone they know overdose or themselves overdosing. 
 

“They have to be at a point that they are ready to admit there is a problem. They have to be ready for change,” she says, noting that some people arrive carrying or wearing all of their possessions. “They have to have endurance because it is not an easy walk that takes determination and courage. And nine times out of 10, they have reached their rock bottom regardless of what it may be. It is staring them in the face and they have to make a decision as to what their future is going to be.” 

Behavioral Health Therapist Mary Locklear leads a group session at Lumberton FBC.
Lumberton FBC Behavioral Health Therapist Mary Locklear takes notes on a white board during a group session.

Lumberton FBC’s Behavioral Health Therapist Mary Locklear, MS, LCMHC-S, LCAS, CCS, says people seeking services are “vulnerable, discouraged, desperate, physically sick, hungry, tired, reporting feelings of shame and rejection.” The staff work together, Mary explains, to assist the person seeking services so that their end result is “leaving the program with some sense of hope, some sense of direction, and encouragement that they can try again.”

Team Collaboration Assists in Treatment

As program director, Kellie has seen hundreds of people served. “The ultimate goal is that if someone comes in with a mental health crisis is to stabilize them on medications and make sure they have a discharge plan in place. For someone who has an SUD, the goal is to make sure they have a safe plan that they can follow once they are discharged,” she explains, adding that discharge plans begin immediately upon admission. 

Kellie and Mary both agree that working together offers the best options for people served starting with daily team treatment meetings bringing together nurses, therapists, nurse practitioner, qualified mental health professionals and behavioral technicians. “We get input from the entire team. Our therapist may see a different part that we didn’t see. A provider may pick up on something that the therapist did not see. The nurses are on the floor every day as well as the qualified professionals. We all see different parts of the person and we put it together for the best outcome,” Kellie tells of the important teamwork component. 

Trends in Substance Use

Mary explains that today’s street drugs are lethal, unlike 25 years ago when crack cocaine or powder cocaine were the most dangerous drugs. Heroin, opioids and fentanyl have changed the SUD landscape. 

Earlier this year, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that an average of nine North Carolinians died each day from a drug overdose in 2020, a 40 percent increase from the previous year translating to an increase of 1,000 lives from 2,352 in 2019 to 3,304 in 2020.

The report also states that studies indicate that “the increase in overdose deaths in recent years is driven by illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl.” Statistics indicate that in 2020, more than 70 percent of overdose deaths in the state likely involved illicitly manufactured fentanyl, often in combination with other substances.

“The potency is now amplified to a pharmaceutical grade making the withdrawals harder, risk of overdose increased and the likelihood of the addict’s mortality becoming fatal,” Mary informs. “With today’s street drug strengths, addiction is not a matter of if but when. There are few cocaine only users, even less alcohol abusers, but more of a cocktail mix of uppers and downers such as ecstasy and opioids, or a cocaine and opioids combination.” 

Kellie says that she and the staff stay up to date with online resources and information from people they serve about what certain drugs are called on the streets. 

A Future of Hope

Kellie feels that her hope for the treatment’s effect may sound simple but it is true: “When they walk out our doors, they are able to be successful and remain sober and live a life of sobriety. And that includes being a functioning member of society. One important part is that they have to go back out those doors and earn that trust and that is not an easy thing to do.”

Mary’s wish for the future of the people served is also straightforward: “My hope is that they simply leave better than they came. That the people we serve can feel like they have a choice, feel like someone can relate to them and be willing to accept help from another human being through therapeutic trust.”

Jada McCarthy, RN, says helping people get the care that they need, recover and return to their lives is rewarding, however there is a difficult part of her role. “The most difficult part of my job is seeing them come back. That is the worst part,” she says of seeing them walk back through the doors after having received treatment following a relapse.

Message for People Struggling to Overcome an SUD

People choosing the option to heal from their mental health crisis or addiction is one of the many positives Mary sees. “It is amazing how a group of people bond, groups as small as four people who have never met, different ages, different ethnicities, different cultures and genders. They come together and get to know each other, connect to each other and encourage one another,” she says.   

Andrew Palazzola, a person served who spent time at the Lumberton FBC in August, was grateful for the opportunity and had made plans to continue receiving recovery treatment at an inpatient program in Florida. “I feel better. I feel a whole lot better. I feel great. I have been here seven days and everything has been so right, so positive. I have had good on conversations with the qualified professional. They are helping me. Monarch is a beautiful place to come,” he expresses. 

Variety of photos from Monarch's Lumberton Facility-Based Crisis Center
(Clockwise) Members of the Lumberton FBC staff include (from left) Administrative Assistant Nicolette Woods, Behavioral Therapist Mary Locklear, Behavioral Technician Lula Amons, Registered Nurse Jada McCartney, Behavioral Technician Jonathan Locklear and Registered Nurse Amy Brant; one of the Lumberton FBC rooms where people being served can take a quiet break; Behavioral Technicians Jonathan and Lula keep up with medical records.

RrECOVERY IS A LIFELONG PROCESS

Lumberton FBC Program Director Kellie Thompson, BSN/RN, QP, says getting help is often the easiest part of recovery. Staying clean and free of substance use can be the most difficult.

“The biggest thing that people don’t realize is that getting clean is the easiest part but staying clean is the hardest. As we often tell people in group sessions that when they get clean or they get through detox and feeling good they think they have it beat. Well guess what? You just made it through the easiest part that there is because when you let your guard down and you feel like, ‘Hey I got this thing,’ you have to stay on top of it. 

Recovery is a work in progress. Every day you have to work your program. You can never wake up feeling that I have this beat. You have to remain mindful that I can’t go back to that lifestyle. You can’t hang out with the same people you hung out with, you can’t participate in the same things you participated in before. I think that is where a lot of folks mess up. 

I have people come back in and I will say, ‘What happened?’ They tell me that they were clean for so long and went and hung out with so and so, and they thought they could use a substance one time and before you know it they find themselves back in the same spot. 

Recovery is a lifetime. It is not just once. That is why it is called recovery. It is going to be a lifelong process. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done. That shouldn’t hinder anyone at all. It is being mindful that you are in it for a lifetime to beat it.”

Posted on: Thursday November 17, 2022