New recovery program fills gap in behavioral health care

New recovery program fills gap in behavioral health care

Fellowship Health Resources, a nonprofit organization providing mental health and addiction services in Rhode Island, opened a new crisis stabilization unit, located at 120 Webster St. in Pawtucket, in September. Pictured, from left, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony are Taylor Cutolo, Amy Bragger, Jamie Souza, and Kristen Guilfoyle. 

PAWTUCKET – A first-of-its-kind crisis stabilization unit has opened in the city to provide individuals struggling with their behavioral health a space to improve their recovery and safely transition back into the community.

The Fellowship Health Resources Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU), is the first in the state to offer all individual rooms and services folks 18 years of age and older who may also be struggling with negative symptoms related to a secondary diagnosis of an intellectual developmental disability.

“When they come to us, they have their own space. …When you’re in crisis and trying to cope with what’s going on, you don’t need to deal with roommates,” Kristen Guilfoyle, FHR’s regional director, told The Breeze, adding that having private space is also a huge draw for LGBTQ+ folks.

Located at 120 Webster St. in Pawtucket, the CSU is housed in an old mill building owned by Living Well Adult Day Care. The CSU, which opened at the beginning of September, is now accepting referrals.

“FHR is excited to open the only CSU in the state of Rhode Island that will specialize in providing care to those with a dual diagnosis relating to challenges associated with their behavioral health and an intellectual developmental disability,” said CEO Debra Paul. “This program will fill a gap in health care while working with individuals to advance their recovery goals.” Before this CSU opened, the only option in the state was for people to go to the hospital, she said.

Taylor Cutolo, FHR program director, describes the CSU as a “hospital diversion program,” meaning “it’s for people who live within the community that need extra support but don’t necessarily meet the criteria to be in-patient.” They can get medication adjustments, participate in groups, and work with people one-on-one for therapy, she said.

Conducting a needs assessment and working with other service providers throughout the state, FHR found that there is a resounding need for this program, Guilfoyle said. “It’s desperately needed,” she said. “What they really (need is) a place that’s community-based, a place to transition when they’re feeling like they’re in crisis” and to receive treatment and services that will provide them with positive coping skills, such as safety planning and suicide prevention, things to get them safely back into the community and day-to-day life as quickly as possible.

The space offers 16 individual rooms, allowing for privacy, as well as a sensory room and quiet rooms. Evidence-based and specialized groups include medication education, community integration, health and wellness life skills, daily living skills, supportive employment services, nutrition, sensory, and early recovery skill building.

With a focus on recovery and resiliency, the CSU provides person-centered care to manage individuals’ needs including improving their activities of daily living and increasing their independence, Guilfoyle said. “We’re there to provide support they need at that moment.”

A certified peer specialist works with the team as well because having someone speak from experience is very valuable, she said. “We know recovery is a cycle. It’s not a straight line,” Guilfoyle said, so some people need a little more help while others need a little less.

Especially with the ongoing pandemic, needs for behavioral health care have increased, Guilfoyle noted, with increases in hospitalizations and suicides because of COVID-19. While whatever happens next year remains to be seen, “we’re prepared,” she said.

Guilfoyle said a lot of people have invested time over the past one and a half years on this project and “everyone is really excited” to finally be open. “Now that it’s finally open, it seems to be going really, really well.”

While it’s difficult to find a location that would house this population of adults in crisis because there’s a lot of stigma attached to that, Guilfoyle said Living Well has been great and “saw the value in what we’re doing.” She said the Pawtucket Fire Department and Police Department both visited the space, and “everyone is supportive of what we’re trying to do there.”

Fellowship Health Resources provides mental health and addiction services in Rhode Island and six other states along the East Coast, and its recent affiliation with Elwyn, a nonprofit human services organization, has uniquely positioned the organizations to work together to provide enhanced services to meet a wide range of care for individuals and families, states a press release.

The program is run in partnership with Optum/Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island; Tufts Health Plan; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island; the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services; and the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

For more information, contact Cutolo at or visit .