Addiction, mental disorder recovery in bloom at Fellowship Health Services

TEASER Recovery garden NEW

Fellowship Health Resources in Georgetown recently held a Recovery Garden celebration, recognizing the success and progress of those recovering from mental health and addiction disorders.

GEORGETOWN – Aromatic smoke that billowed along U.S. 113 in Georgetown Aug. 4 wasn’t coming from the kitchen at Burger King.

It was from a ground-level barbeque at Fellowship Health Services, in celebration of the “Recovery Garden” on the second-floor deck at the facility that serves individuals with mental illness and addiction disorders.

“I am so proud of these guys,” said Patrick DeBow, Trauma Peer Specialist at FHR’s Georgetown facility. “This group pulled together this garden out of nothing. It is all re-purposed, reclaimed, recycled or donated. They built it from scratch. Not a dollar was spent on it.”

A non-profit organization, FHR is currently based in eight states, with three office facilities in Sussex County: Georgetown, Seaford and Millsboro, which serves as a regional base.

FHR operates group homes located in Milford, Harbeson and Georgetown.

“Here in this building we do alcohol and drug counseling,” said Mr. DeBow. “And we deal with mental health.”

“The majority of our clients come directly from the psychiatric hospital, or they have been living independently in the community and they need a lot higher level of care, but yet they don’t need to be an in-patient in a hospital,” said Mary Lou Blades, FHR’s director of residential group facilities in Sussex County.  “They will come to the group home and hopefully develop the skills needed to go back into their own apartment or to go to a lesser level of care. We need many more group homes in this area. We do.”

About 80 percent or more of FHR’s individuals/clients are confronting opiate/heroin addiction, Mr. DeBow said.

12 Recovery pat deBow fruit

Patrick DeBow, Trauma Peer Specialist at Fellowship Health Services, stands behind artistic fruit carvings created by one of the individuals at the Georgetown facility undergoing treatment.

Clients with addiction issues range from upper teens to 60-plus.

“I think a lot of people think of Janis Joplin. And it’s really not that anymore. It’s your neighbor. It’s your uncle, or maybe your mom,” said Mr. DeBow. “There are a lot of secrets with addiction.”

FHR has an intense outpatient treatment program: four days a week, three hours per day.

Presently, FHR’s Georgetown facility serves about 20 to 22 daytime clients, both male and female, and a night group of about 15 people.

On staff at the Georgetown facility are a nurse and a nurse practitioner, based in the wellness center.

Services include:

  • A treatment plan developed by the individual and counselor to facilitate recovery with referral to a lower-level of care and a relapse recovery plan;
  • Supportive group therapy dealing with depression, trauma, relapse prevention, psycho-educational groups and stress reduction techniques on a weekly basis;
  • Educational and/or employment needs potentially incorporated in treatment plans.

FHR’s program is structured to provide psychiatric treatment and psychotherapy.

“Depression, anxiety and a lot of things stem from addiction,” said Mr. DeBow.

Digging for the root of the problem is an important step.

“People are already beaten down when they get here with punitive and shaming actions. They get that from their family and their friends, their probation officer …,” said Mr. DeBow. “We want to be here to lift them. Now we have structure. Our program is six months to a year. And most people tend to go the longer time.”

“We are very person centered,” said FHR Regional Director Michelle Serrano. “We make sure we are meeting the needs and asking the individuals what they really want: what is their goal in mind? What they want to be doing with their lives. What has been hindering them; what have been the good things.”

Emphasis also includes education and job readiness.

“That way they are more ready to accomplish their goals,” said Ms. Serrano.

Lisa Hatfield, the nurse at the Georgetown facility who has been with Fellowship Health Resources since 1999, says continued support after group therapy is important. Support can include medication.

“What we’re trying to do is once they’ve gone through the group (home), not to just cut them off and let them go on their way,” said Ms. Hatfield. “People with addiction, they came from somewhere. There is a background. There is some story we can help them with. A lot of times your will power is not enough: ‘I want to beat this addiction.’ That’s good, but medication will help.”

Mr. DeBow worked for Delaware Health and Social Services in the trauma grant program as a trauma peer for two years before moving into the private sector. He says his life story that includes sexual abuse, traumatic loss of parents, opiate addiction and prison time factors in his role as a trauma peer specialist.

“What that means is I have similar shared life experiences. I have experienced addiction. I’ve experienced prison, mental health issues, suicide attempts … I’m also gay,” said Mr. DeBow, who served three prison sentences for about two years and today proclaims he is now “10 years clean” from opiate addiction.

“I have found from my personal experience when you are able to make peace with some of the things in your past – and somethings you can’t make peace with – but every time you do, you take another brick off your back. And things get lighter and things get easier.”

Dave Coon of Lisbon, MD, is one of FHR’s hopeful success stories in the making. Conviction for a third DUI sent him to prison for 90 days in Delaware. He is on home confinement at a family place in Fenwick.

“This is one of the conditions of my sentence. I have to finish Fellowship,” said Mr. Coon, who used culinary skills he learned 23 years ago to craft a fruit sculpture for the Recovery Garden celebration feast. “I am definitely an alcoholic. I’ve had problems with alcohol my whole entire life. This is the best thing that has happened to me, really. I think it’s great.”

Mr. DeBow admits it is difficult to gauge success.

“We often do not hear from the folks who graduate from the program and go on to do well,” said Mr. DeBow. “By the same token, we unfortunately do see others again … it was not their time to ‘get it.’ Personally, it does not matter to me how many times it takes you as long as you do ‘get it’ one day and reclaim your life.”

Sadly, Mr. DeBow concurs that “some are not going to make it.”

And conquering opiate/heroin addiction, he says, is a tough hill to climb.

“It ‘talks’ to you. Heroin is like no other drug,” said Mr. DeBow. “You can sit there the night before, smash the needle and (say) ‘I’m done. I have a commitment. I have will power.’ And you wake up the next day and you’ve got a needle in your arm again or you’re snorting.”

“We also attack another component here, not just the chemical part of the body, the brain. But as a trauma peer we do look at traumatic issues in their life,” Mr. DeBow said. “We are all part of this community where drugs and alcohol are taking our community down. If we can be a little bit of a part of helping people … then we also help the community at large.”

LOCATIONS: FHR’s Sussex locations are 20707 DuPont Boulevard, Georgetown (854-0626; 400 Delaware Avenue, Suite 105, Millsboro (934-1861); and 1330 Middleford Road, Seaford (628-4121).

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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