A new crisis and recovery center for adults with significant mental health and substance abuse challenges has opened its doors in Ellendale.

A new crisis and recovery center for adults with significant mental health and substance abuse challenges has opened its doors in Ellendale.

On Monday, the Ellendale Recovery Response Center began providing behavior health services and voluntary recovery opportunities to residents of Sussex and Kent counties 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 700 Main St.

“What we’re hoping that this program will do is better use our resources, so that people with mental illness conditions will not have to go to hospital emergency rooms while waiting to get services,” explained Kevin Ann Huckshorn, the director of the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH). “We’re also hoping to free up the police officers in the local communities so they’re not sitting in the emergency departments with clients and transporting them all around the state.”

The establishment of the center follows a 2011 settlement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice that resulted from a three-year federal probe into issues at the Delaware Psychiatric Center in New Castle. At that time, federal investigators determined that the state’s system for dealing with those suffering from mental illness violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The ensuing settlement required Delaware to pursue a number of new initiatives, such as the creation of a statewide crisis system that includes mobile teams, walk-in centers and crisis stabilization services, as well as a network of community-based solutions capable of delivering individualized support, service and rehabilitation.

Earlier this year, DSAMH hired the Arizona-based private mental health service provider Recovery Innovations to operate the Ellendale facility for $2.8 million a year. Recovery Innovations, which operates seven crisis recovery centers in five other states, was chosen over four other service providers.

“I am truly honored to be the provider of this essential resource as part of Delaware’s vision of expanded and effective community-based behavioral health services,” said Eugene Johnson, the CEO and president of Recovery Innovations. “We will offer a welcoming and friendly healing space where those we serve will find renewed hope that recovery is possible and that they can return to life in their community with their family, neighbors and friends.”

Recovery Services Administrators Patricia Friend and Rachelle Weiss said the center’s staff of about 30 mental health professionals, psychiatric nurses and peer support specialists will employ a no-force-first, trauma-informed system of care that focuses on peer support and client empowerment.

“A lot of our staff has personal, lived experience with mental health issues who can convey a message of hope by showing people that if they got through it then the people who come to us can too,” Weiss said. “It’s not some fairytale. It’s a well thought out, evidence-based program that works.”

A constable also will be present at all hours to detain, transport and involuntarily commit clients to state mental health facilities if they pose a danger to themselves or others.

“Our first goal will always be to work with people to get them from the crisis they are experiencing to the next step in their lives,” Friend said. “Our focus is not on their problems, but on finding a solution.”

The center will accept walk-ins, as well as referrals from healthcare providers, law enforcement agencies, family members, neighbors and others.

Individuals 18 and older with significant mental health and/or substance use challenges can remain at the center for up to 23 hours. Guests are welcome to visit with a guest’s permission. No guest will be released without transportation and a follow-up plan for continuing service and support.

The center will not accept individuals suspected of drug overdoses until they have been medically cleared, medically-unstable individuals or individuals experiencing moderate to acute alcohol or drug withdrawal.