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Crestwood Behavioral Health


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Celebrating Goodbyes

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Imagine a group of people sitting in a circle coming together for a unified purpose, to celebrate the graduation of one of their own. The graduating peer excitedly sits in the middle of the group, with a huge smile on their face, because their day has finally come; they’ve made it to graduation! A beautiful rock has been painted and tailored specifically for that person. The rock is passed around the circle into the hands of all those in attendance, as they share their memories and best wishes for the graduate. Within that rock all the good thoughts are wrapped up into it and then given to the graduate.

At Crestwood Chula Vista, they started a tradition to honor their graduates. When faced with their first successful graduation in December 2015, they wanted to start a special and unique tradition, so they gathered together the people they serve and asked how they would like to celebrate their graduation. Many of them offered insightful and valuable input and all these great ideas were then considered by the community. When all was said and done, the most popular idea for a graduation ceremony came from one of their dearest residents, who has since graduated, to start a goodbye group with a “good memories” rock. The good memories rock, which is decorated according to the desire of its future owner, is passed around from person to person in a circle that surrounds the person who will soon be leaving the campus. Each person who holds the rock is then asked to speak, sharing kind words, dear memories and warm wishes to the graduate. And so, the tradition for their peer goodbye group was created and continues to this day.

For the last goodbye, right before the graduate is completely discharged, they go through what is called their “High-Five Goodbye.” Clients and staff line the sides of the hallway leading to the exit with extended hands and then whistle, cheer and chant the graduate’s name. The graduate walks down the hallway, usually with a huge smile, and receives high-fives, and sometimes hugs. Some cry, some laugh, and some shout. The one thing they all have in common is their excitement to move onto the next chapter of their lives and recovery; they’ve made it!

This tradition has carried over to not just client graduations, but also when their staff move on from Crestwood or are promoted to other campuses. Wanda Anderson, Service Coordinator at Crestwood Chula Vista, said, “Goodbye groups provide closure for staff and the people we serve and are a wonderful opportunity to give honor to those who so deserve it. We love our special tradition and if your campus does not have a tradition to honor your graduates, we hope that this may inspire you to start one of your own.”

Submitted by:
Wanda Anderson, Service Coordinator and Shanel Stec, Activity Coordinator,
Crestwood Chula Vista

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Lacing up their shoes for Health and Wellness

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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”- Confucius

At Crestwood Chula Vista, they offer several types of fitness and movement activities for their clients, from Yoga to Zumba, to strength training, to dodgeball and kickball. Unfortunately, they found that only a small percentage of their clients were participating in these activities and at the same time were also still struggling with their desire to be healthy and to maintain their weight. “I’m too overweight to exercise” and “I don’t have the energy to work out” were common explanations as to why they were not participating in activities. This presented the staff with a challenge. They asked themselves what activity can just about anyone do, what activity will they want to do and what would be something that would also benefit both their physical and emotional health? The answer was right in front of them. Every client was doing it every day – walking!

It was right about this time that the City of San Diego advertised the Parks Fit San Diego 2016 Challenge, which is to walk 30 miles in 60 days. Clients and staff were excited to become involved in the 30-mile challenge and it was a way for them to celebrate every step they would take. But as their clients thought about it, they decided that 30 miles in sixty days was not enough and they would instead do 30 miles in 30 days. So the staff purchased pedometers for everyone participating and off they went.

The challenge began on June 18th with a 1-Mile Fun Run.  After that, they went on walks in the community, took nature hikes, and joined 5k events. Each and every day, clients could be seen walking the halls and the patio at the facility with pedometers in hand. They pounded the pavement in their neighborhood, trampled the grass at Balboa Park, explored the trails of the Living Coast Discovery Center, and even kicked up some sand at Imperial Beach. The results of the challenge were tremendous! One of their clients walked 215 miles! She reported her miles to the staff proudly every morning. One day she joked, “I didn’t do so well yesterday, I only went 20 miles.” Other clients were motivated to keep up and the race was on!  Four clients logged more than four hundred miles and together, as a group, they walked more than 500 miles!

“Beyond the miles they racked up, we were seeing firsthand what we have all read in the research studies, that walking and exercise promotes good health, reduces anxiety, increases self-esteem, and boosts mood,” said Shanel Stec, Recreation Assistant.  Clients also made healthier food choices. One client lost 20 pounds and another client lost three pounds.  They set goals for themselves and tracked their progress faithfully. They worked together as a team, challenging each other to keep up and they joined other groups. They were out in the community, they were out in nature, and best of all, they were having fun.

The challenge ended on August 13th with the Parks Fit San Diego 5k finale. However, this finale is not the end for them walking, even more clients and staff have signed up for a new challenge that begins soon.  Shanel said, “We are excited to lace up our shoes and walk together, not as clients and staff, but as companions on our journey toward health and wellness.”

Contributed by:
Shanel Stec
Recreation Assistant
Crestwood Chula Vista


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The Healing Power of Dogs

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When he first stepped inside Crestwood San Diego he was thin, weak, and frightened. He had patchy hair from malnourishment and poor hygiene. He had been abused and kept in a small space when he was younger, and he was later abandoned by his first family. He had been forced to live on the streets for some time before getting taken in by the “system.” He would sometimes get aggressive with others and he clearly was traumatized by his past in ways that gave him nightmares that made him toss and turn and cry at night. His legs were weakened and arthritic from being confined when he was young, and this caused him to struggle when walking. He was nervous when he first came to Crestwood San Diego, but he was quickly embraced by both the staff and clients. His name is Gifford and he is a six-year old Chow Chow/Golden Retriever mix dog.

Gifford was adopted with another rescued older Chow Chow/Golden Retriever mix, named Enzo, from a high-kill shelter in San Bernardino by two staff members, Meghan O’Barr, a Service Coordinator at Crestwood Chula Vista and Stephen O’Barr, Director of Nursing at Crestwood San Diego.  Enzo’s first owner was a man with mental illness who ended up hospitalized for a long period of time, which then left Enzo to fend for himself on the streets, until he was picked up by the shelter.

Gifford was so scared and traumatized that he didn’t make eye contact at first, but he was ever so grateful for any petting he received. He required a lot of care, rehabilitation, and exercise before he stepped inside the facility as a therapy dog. He was shy at first, but as staff and clients opened up to him and showed him love, he quickly grew to like spending time at Crestwood San Diego and Crestwood Chula Vista. Like Gifford, Enzo had many trust issues.  He would greet people, but also kept his distance for the first month. It took patience, consistency and compassion for Enzo to get past his trust issues, just like many of our Crestwood clients.  Enzo is now the quintessential “Velcro” dog, always staying close to his family, yet with reassurance, is eager to meet new people and give them kisses.

Michael Bargagliotti, the former Administrator of both Crestwood Chula Vista and Crestwood San Diego, who is now the Administrator of the Crestwood Center San Jose campus, was highly supportive of incorporating pets as part of the therapeutic milieu.  Since September 2015, Michael opened the door to allow several staff members to bring their dogs to both facilities, including Service Coordinator, Maida Ferraes, who brings her dog Rocco; Director of Nursing Services, Fabiola Evans, who brings her dog Riley; and Service Coordinator, Jana Cook, who brings her dog Sammy Thomas. All of these dogs were rescued from shelters, have experienced their own trauma and now love their new lives as the dogs of Crestwood.

The dogs add to the feeling of a warm and homelike atmosphere that Crestwood MHRCs strive to create with a living-room milieu. They don’t just bring cuteness, fur and fun to the two programs; they have made connections with some of the clients who suffer from the worst paranoia and anxiety and who often push most people away. Studies have shown that pet therapy helps clients by lessening depression, decreasing feelings of isolation, encouraging communication, providing comfort, increasing socialization, lowering anxiety, and reducing loneliness.  Gifford recently helped a client with suspected sexual abuse to feel safe and comfortable enough so that they could start opening up to the staff. Gifford was also the mascot at the first San Diego vs Chula Vista kickball tournament, and he even makes appearances at IDT meetings so that clients can feel more comfortable in discussions that may be sometimes stressful.

One client coping with manic episodes at Crestwood Chula Vista refers to Rocco as “my boy” and their shared exuberance and energy makes them the best of friends.  Rocco has been instrumental in reducing this client’s symptoms with simple, every day dog activities, such as walks and games of fetch. Like Gifford, Rocco struggled with his relationship with other animals and underwent training with a behavioral therapist, an experience that many clients can relate to. Sammy Thomas, who one of the clients calls, “Jana’s Lamb,” is a gentle boy, who like some of our clients, suffers from a severe medical condition.  Sammy experiences seizures and takes medication daily. Jana and Meghan both use their dogs’ medication needs to help normalize medication management and this helps many of their clients realize that Sammy and Enzo are just like them.

Clients at Crestwood San Diego and Crestwood Chula Vista have watched with delight as love and care have transformed Gifford from a nervous, half-lame dog with patchy fur, into a big, friendly bear with a beautiful, thick coat. The message our clients get is that if Gifford can grow and change, then so can they.  Just as the staff is deeply satisfied by their clients’ growth and successes, the clients have taken great joy in seeing the recovery and resiliency of our Crestwood dogs and know that they are capable of recovery too. Several clients have grown very attached to the dogs and look forward to each of their visits. These amazing dogs have awakened empathy and affection in many of our clients through their unconditioned love and presence. They both share a lot of trauma and suffering in their pasts.  They also share a simple need, which is to be loved and to know that they are not alone and they can give each other that powerful, simple love that makes them both stronger and happier.  That love, togetherness, and understanding are the mainstays of recovery, and are what makes Crestwood so special.

Contributed by: Meghan O’Barr, Service Coordinator
Crestwood Chula Vista
and
Stephen O’Barr, Director of Nursing, Crestwood San Diego


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Making a Difference & Giving Back

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Two Amazing Graduates who are Making a Difference and Giving Back

When Crestwood San Diego opened in June 2014, a client named J. was admitted to the program in its second week of services. It was then that J. and staff created and began working on her personal plan for recovery. In just a little over three months, J. became Crestwood San Diego’s first “graduate” meaning that she had successfully completed the program and was ready for discharge to the community.  J. felt that her experience at Crestwood was so valuable that she decided to return to the facility as a peer volunteer to assist others on their personal journeys of recovery.  After a couple of months of work as a peer volunteer, J. was offered a paid position as a Rehabilitation Assistant at Crestwood San Diego. She accepted that offer and has since completed a Peer Training course through NAMI.  J. continues to work in this capacity at the facility, providing inspiration and support to the clients, as well as staff.

Crestwood Chula Vista opened in June 2015, and one of the clients admitted there shortly after was A.  A. soon became a participant in the Crestwood Chula Vista’sDreamcatchers Empowerment Network Vocational Program, designed to provide support and education to those with the goal of finding employment. Following J.’s leadfrom Crestwood San DiegoA. became Crestwood Chula Vista’s second “graduate”. A. now returns twice a week to the facility in the role of peer volunteer, providing meaningful support to others. In addition to providing peer support, A. also leads a weekly bible study group at the facility.  He currently has the goal of becoming a Rehabilitation Assistant like J., and is well on his way to achieving that goal with thesupport of staff at Crestwood Chula Vista.