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Newark Life

A new place to make a new start

Sep 30, 2016 09:35AM ● By J. Chambless

Seated in the reception area of the Recovery Center are (from left): Cheryl Raymond, who handles incoming guests; Alice Scott, support and service coordinator; Courtney Brooks, a peer recovery coach; Julio Cardenas, a constable; and Le'Kesha Ashe, a peer recovery coach.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Sitting in a side office near the sleek reception area of the Recovery Response Center on Chestnut Hill Road, administrator Purcell Dye was talking about the razor-thin edge between normalcy and crisis.

“Every person is just a phone call away from being in distress,” he said. “We can't tell where life will lead us. It's nice to have a facility you can walk into if you need to.”

The new building started operating in July and had a grand opening on Aug. 2. “The goal is to stabilize people in a 23-hour period,” Dye said. “That works a thousand different ways, because you might have somebody who is agitated over a relationship issue and they made a suicidal verbalization, the cops picked them up and they wound up here. That 23 hours is a critical time because we offer opportunities for food, sleep, meds if they are off their medications.”

Administrator Purcell Dye in front of the Recovery Response Center in Newark that opened last summer.

 During a tour, Dye showed off the large central room where several guests were having breakfast under the watchful eyes of several staff members at a desk. The open, bright, airy room has recliners, TVs, a phone and computers so anyone who has been admitted can stay in touch with family or employers to explain where they are. This is the second Recovery Response Center in Delaware. The other one, in Ellendale, opened in 2012. The Newark facility is open 24 hours a day, with walk-ins in the lobby from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. After hours, there is another entrance, and law enforcement personnel can drop off someone in crisis at any time. There are 16 spaces available for short-term stays.

“We have 14 individuals here right now, and we got three dropped off by law enforcement this morning,” Dye said, showing off the kitchen area, where meals are delivered daily by Connections Catering. There's a large cabinet full of cookies, crackers and treats that Dye said is very popular. “I call this the never-ending river of Famous Amos cookies,” he said, laughing. There's a laundry facility, and the Recovery Center has a stock of clean scrubs on hand in case someone arrives with soiled or damaged clothing.

The main room looks like a hotel lobby, not a medical facility, and that's the idea, Dye said.

“It's all about having the least restrictive environment and the most inclusion,” he said. “The atmosphere that we create for them is safe, recovery-oriented and nurturing.

“We don't have weapons here,” he said. “We don't have guns or tasers or anything like that. We have a nurse who's here 24 hours a day. We also have an on-call nurse practitioner. We address the medical side, so if somebody does verbalize that they ingested something and you start to see their blood pressure drop, we can take them to the emergency room. We do monitor that.”

The people who come to the Recovery Response Center are having behavioral health problems, sometimes exacerbated by addiction issues. First responders can evaluate if someone needs immediate medical attention and divert them to an emergency facility. If the person is agitated or threatening to harm themselves or others, they can be brought to the Recovery Center.

Without centers such as this, people in crisis can end up in a hospital emergency department. “While the ED might be the place that used to be available to them, now we have something that is going to be purposeful and fit the needs of the mental health community specifically,” Dye said. “The ED is regimented and may not what these people need. The ED nurse is trying to deal with chest pains and gunshot wounds. There's a different priority for someone who's just anxious. And if they start to act out, the ED really doesn't have the time or resources to give a verbal intervention. They're just going to use force.

“We're no force first. We're assessing all the time, and we're patient,” Dye said. “And we'll take everybody – insurance, no insurance, doesn't matter. We take as many people as possible.”

Incoming guests at the Recovery Response Center are met by constables and recovery coaches – staff members, many of whom have struggled in the past with behavioral health or addiction issues. They offer a level of understanding that medical workers sometimes lack.

“We had one African American man in his mid-30s come in who had superficial lacerations on his forearm,” Dye recalled. “He was a cutter. He was quiet, but agitated. I went to talk to him, and I've got my tie on and everything, and he's not talking. So I backed off and a staff member came in. You could see the blood seeping through the gauze, and the staff member said, 'I see you cut yourself.' And the guys says, 'Yeah.' The staff member said, 'I know what's that like,' and showed him his scars from cutting. That kind of rapport building speaks above any type of college class, or title, or letters after your name. That's the type of relationship we utilize here.”

“Our criteria is recovery,” Dye said of the counselors who work at the facility. “The coaches are now looking to give back. They don't come from a judgmental vantage point. They recognize the reciprocity when you serve. When you serve, it becomes fulfilling, and then you serve more. The recovery component is not necessarily, 'Do what I did.' Denial is part of recovery, and we know that. It's not, 'You're wrong. Do what I say.' It doesn't work like that. But here, we say, 'I'm here to listen, here's what worked for me, and I'm here to provide resources for you.”

The Recovery Response Center is run by RI International, which has two similar Recovery Centers in North Carolina, two in Washington and one in California. The Newark site “was chosen for its proximity to Christiana Hospital, and to the interstate,” Dye said.

When the facility was proposed, “there was some pushback from the community,” Dye said. “There was one community website set up. It's just a matter of getting correct information to people. The great thing was that our vice-president was able to fly out and meet with a few of the local representatives, and express that we're not a methadone clinic. It's a locked facility. We are actually exactly what you need in a community.”

After someone in crisis is met, calmed, fed and given an opportunity to sleep, they are gently coached to obtain whatever services are needed by Restart, which is part of the RI organization. “What they do is connect individuals to support systems in the community. Doctor's appointments, Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, they hook them up with that,” Dye said. “They form a relationship with people and follow a participant for 45 days. And they continue to follow up until you are connected, and that's when they stop.”

The service is crucial for people who might not otherwise be able to navigate the red tape of getting services.

The Recovery Response Center is for short-term stays. “We can't take people for a week that they might need for detox, and we're not set up to handle that,” Dye said. Instead, guests are welcomed, stabilized, given the help they need and sent back into the community in a better state, with the proper connections.

And they can come back.

Le'Kesha Ashe, a peer recovery coach, beamed when talking about what the Recovery Response Center does for people. She has struggled with depression, her parents had substance abuse issues, and she lacked a stable home while growing up in Philadelphia. For those who seek recovery, she said, “It's never too late to start your journey. A lot of times, people are in denial. We hide our health problems because people don't want to talk about it. One thing I've realized is that when the pain exceeds the pleasure of a drug, you are ready to get help.

“We don't care if you come here one time, or a million times. We always welcome people. I tell people all the time, 'If you have a second, it's going to get you to your minute, which is going to get you to your hour, the day and the week. Give yourself some credit.' I saw one of my participants that I hadn't seen in two years, and she said, 'I was so hopeless. But I've been praying for strength and I don't have any anxiety.' And that's great. We're not perfect, we make mistakes.

“I put a quote up on the bulletin board here that people love,” Ashe said. “It says, 'If you FAIL, never give up, because FAIL means First Attempt In Life. END is not the end, because END means Effort Never Dies. And if you get NO as an answer, remember NO means Next Opportunity.' That's just a little hope for people.”


The New Castle County Recovery Response Center is at 659 E. Chestnut Hill Road in Newark. For information, call 302-318-6070 or visit

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].

Administrator Purcell Dye in front of the Recovery Response Center in Newark that opened last summer.


Seated in the reception area of the Recovery Center are (from left): Cheryl Raymond, who handles incoming guests; Alice Scott, support and service coordinator; Courtney Brooks, a peer recovery coach; Julio Cardenas, a constable; and Le'Kesha Ashe, a peer recovery coach.

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