Expected to break ground in 2024, the center will bring together under one roof all the components of crisis services that are now fractured across our system.
PHOTO: From left, Rachael Neff, director of human services for Bucks County; County Commissioners Bob Harvie Jr., Diane Marseglia, and Gene DiGirolamo; Lenape Valley Foundation CEO Sharon Curran; Doylestown Health President & CEO Jim Brexler.
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (October 2023) — Families and individuals struggling with a behavioral health challenge such as mental illness, drug & alcohol use, or intellectual disabilities soon will have a new place to go for help.
Plans were unveiled recently for a new, specially designed crisis stabilization center in Doylestown that will bring the best practices in behavioral health systems of care to Bucks County. A major advancement in behavioral health services, the stabilization center will bring together under one roof all the components of crisis services that are now fractured across our system: mental health, drug and alcohol, intellectual disabilities and more, in an environment designed to deescalate the crises.
The first of its kind in Pennsylvania, the center is a collaborative effort between Lenape Valley Foundation, Doylestown Health, Bucks County Department of Behavioral Health/Developmental Programs, Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission, Magellan Behavioral Health, and NAMI. Lenape Valley Foundation will operate the center.
“This new center will bring together the various types of services that an individual in crisis needs, so we can get the full picture of this human being and help them on their journey to recovery,” said Sharon Curran, CEO of Lenape Valley Foundation. “Even though that just makes sense, that is not the way things work today. And we’ll do it all in a calming, home-like atmosphere in a culture of nonviolence.”
Local elected officials and leaders from the involved organizations gathered on Oct. 19 at Lenape Valley Foundation in Doylestown to reveal the rendering of the new building. Set to begin construction in 2024, the 22,000-square-foot center will be located next to the existing Lenape Valley Foundation site at 500 N. West Street, on the grounds of, but separate from, Doylestown Hospital – and that difference is crucial, said Jim Brexler, CEO of Doylestown Health.
In Bucks County now, individuals experiencing behavioral health crises often are taken to local emergency rooms. Brexler said Doylestown Health leases two rooms and a holding room in Doylestown Hospital to Lenape Valley for crisis assessment of people who come into the emergency room. But while hospitals do an excellent job of evaluating and caring for people with medical crises, Brexler said, the crowded, sometimes noisy and chaotic environment of a hospital emergency department can exacerbate the distress of a person experiencing a behavioral health challenge.
“The hospital, Lenape Valley, Drug & Alcohol, the county, we came together and said, ‘Let’s blow this up. Let’s think about, what’s the ideal design, not what’s an incremental fix,’” said Brexler, adding that the innovation doesn’t come from just the new building itself. “It’s the people who deliver the services in an environment that is conducive to caring for these patients, and that’s what we are proud to be a partner with.”
County commissioner Diane Marseglia, who has a background in social work, said the infrastructure to care for mental health, addiction, and other behavioral health issues was decimated in the 1980s. Mental health facilities were closed and the few available community-based mental health centers did not have the resources or ability to fill the void. The pandemic and now the ongoing opioid crisis have made matters worse, she said.
“It became even clearer that we had not been meeting the needs of people for a very long time,” said Marseglia. “People with mental health, struggling with addiction, and struggling with co-occurring disorders had absolutely nowhere to go but their emergency room, and that is not the right place for them to be.
“So, from the ruins of the eighties, we are like a phoenix rising with this new construction,” Marseglia continued. “There are a lot of people suffering out there, and I’m just happy to say, help is on the way.”
Thanking county commissioners and local and state elected officials and praising the funders who have invested in the project, Rachael Neff said the center is exactly what Bucks County needs.
“This center will be a place where people can come, because the facts are, every day in Bucks County, we have children, we have individuals, we have families who are struggling with mental health and substance use disorders,” said Neff, director of human services for Bucks County. “When they’re in some state of crisis, they need a therapeutically appropriate response and it’s really wonderful that Lenape Valley will be the place where the doors will always be open, 24/7.”