Hampstead Hospital’s new intensive outpatient program launched in March is designed to provide comprehensive support to adolescents and decrease the need for re-hospitalizations.
According to Director of Clinical Operations Patti Shea, Psy.D., the number of young people ages 12 to 18 presenting with substance abuse disorders and co-occurring psychological conditions is on the rise and the wait time for follow up appointments after inpatient discharge can be eight to 12 weeks.
“We noticed that stays in an inpatient psych ward unit are getting shorter and the kids need additional outpatient treatment or they get re-admitted fairly quickly,” Shea said. “That transition time puts them at higher risk for symptoms re-occurring. They are not quite stable. This program evolved from that idea.”
Offered five days per week for three hours after school, HOPE (Hampstead Outpatient East) is comprised of a combination of family therapy, individual and group treatment and medication management as well as use of a Dialectical Behavior Therapy model that focuses on skill development, she said.
The adolescents in need of HOPE often are experiencing severe psychological stressors including family dysfunction but are not at imminent risk of self harm.
“Our philosophy is that the families very much need to be involved. They are the adolescent’s primary support. Sometimes, the kids don’t want them there…but our goal is to provide the entire family with education,” Shea said. “We help families learn how to help the adolescent cope.”
A multi-disciplinary, team approach is adopted, Shea said, and staff includes a child psychiatrist, a master’s level clinician, a nursing supervisor, a part-time licensed social worker, a certified therapeutic rec specialist and a bachelor’s level clinician. Shea and Clinical Director of Child/Adolescent Services Wendy Spalinger, LICSW provide clinical support.
An average of 15 patients will participate in the program initially for the full five days with the schedule customized to meet the adolescent’s specific needs. Shea said that over time, she expects some patients will cut down to two or three days per week of treatment. Tuesday and Thursdays will be devoted to substance abuse issues, Wednesdays will have a family focus and Thursdays feature extended hours until 7 p.m.
Art, music and physical activity are other components.
Shea noted that referrals will come from primary care centers, schools and other outpatient centers where there is a need for more intensive care. Running HOPE from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. keeps the kids “hooked into school,” she said, while still assisting them with problems they face such as substance abuse or a high risk for developing it, sexualized or self destructive behavior/cutting and anxiety.
Hampstead Hospital is located on 100 acres in rural southern New Hampshire less than an hour from Boston and the seacoast.
The director sees HOPE as a means to make a difference in the lives of adolescents who are at risk for hospitalization, are transitioning from inpatient hospitalization or have been identified with a substance abuse disorder that requires structured treatment in order to maintain abstinence.
“We’re looking at how we can support adolescents in this area,” Shea said. “Our external reference sources feel there is a need for it…And we’re excited to expand our services to more effectively meet the needs of the kids.”
By Susan Gonsalves