One family’s story from crisis to hope.
We are your typical American family; happily married parents, four kids, and a dog. In the early weeks of 2016, we found ourselves in a family crisis like none other we had faced. We did what we do best, we started asking questions and seeking assistance. We were introduced to Chuck Brooks with BRC through a mutual acquaintance. At that point, we had limited knowledge of the inner workings of BRC and we couldn’t fathom our kid going to a residential facility but Chuck agreed to come meet and offer his guidance on what programs were available in the area for families in a crisis like ours was. That is probably what was most striking, that he o offered to come meet even though we did not know that our kid would ever need the care he could offer. By the time we were able to schedule a meeting and sit down with Chuck our crisis worsened. I sat across from Chuck and told the story of our family and our son, a typical 12-year-old boy diagnosed many years prior with severe ADHD who had spiraled out of control over the past months. Chuck offered a multitude of advice, the most comforting was that we should not take his word on inpatient programs and facilities but that we should investigate for ourselves, tour facilities and talk with staff about practices. We immediately scheduled a tour of BRC for my husband and I that same week, just in case.
Living in the Norfolk area my whole life I was familiar with the BRC campus location as I drive past it daily. The campus has always caught my eye. How it is meticulously kept, how the buildings look like they belong on a college campus, and how to the unknowing passerby would have no idea it was a clinical facility. There are no bars or gates, no bare walls, no isolation areas. We knew immediately that if our son needed this level of care that BRC was going to be the place, now to wait and see. It was less than a week later when I had to send a desperate email to Chuck saying that we had made the decision, due to the continued crisis, that our son needed an inpatient program. This was the hardest day of our parenting journey up to that point but I felt a sense of security knowing that we had such a gem of treatment right in our backyard.
We completed the admission paperwork and waited. Our insurance company was not being very helpful and this would prove no different with how they would continue to behave. The staff at BRC worked tirelessly to collect reports, conduct evaluations and provide medical recommendations to our insurance company. They did all of this while keeping us thoroughly informed of how things were going but not putting any of the burdens on us. They continued to reassure us that things would be okay and that if according to the medical staff, our son needed the treatment they could offer that we would find a way to make it happen. Our son was admitted to BRC on March 11th, the second hardest day of our parenting journey. After 30 days at BRC, our insurance company decided, against medical recommendations, that our son no longer needed services and they refused to continue to pay for services. We did not learn about this from our insurance company but from the wonderful staff at BRC who met us face to face and explained what they had been told. They came to us prepared with a new option and had paperwork ready for us to sign that minute.
Our son’s initial treatment plan was thorough and inclusive of not just surface level behavioral expectations but with deeper emotional understanding expectations. The treatment plan not only posed these expectations but provided the needed guidance and teaching in these areas of self-awareness and self-control. BRC was the first place that looked at our son not just as the sum of his symptoms but more so as a whole person. They are helping identify the causes, not just the effects of his behavior. They are helping him understand while he feels the things he does and how to communicate this to others around him in a socially acceptable and safe way. They are also teaching him that feeling these things are not wrong, something that for a child with a dysregulation disorder is paramount for their overall self-image. They spend so much time being treated like the bad kid that they start to feel like that is all they will ever be.
Our son’s therapist has supported him through 3 or more individual sessions a week and us through our weekly family therapy sessions. He has offered us guidance and support in so many areas of supporting a child with the unique challenges that it presents. Our entire family, we have three additional children, participates in family therapy and everyone has benefitted from the guidance that the therapist provides. He calls us between our therapy sessions to keep us informed about how he is doing socially and emotionally. When we have presented him with concerns he is quick to acknowledge and address them. He takes every concern that we bring to him seriously and acknowledges the importance of us being educated on strategies to help our son when he comes home and not just focused on the fantasy of ‘making him better’ while he is at their facility. They acknowledge that these kids need continued support and care even once they are discharged.
The communication of the staff across departments is phenomenal. The staff communicates almost instantly about concerns, behaviors, needs, and corrective actions. This is so helpful in making sure that these children, who do not always tell factually accurate stories, are held appropriately accountable, that they receive the proper support when they are struggling and that families know what is really going on. As a parent, it is so comforting to know that we can call and everyone on our son’s team knows what his current challenges and successes are in real time. This allows all of us to praise and support him as he needs at that very minute. Our son has done so well at BRC but I think what has been the best part is that the staff at BRC has made him feel safe. We were very worried about how he would transition into an inpatient facility but within the first few days was expressing how helpful he felt all of the services were and that he was enjoying it. He was enjoying therapy, he was enjoying all of the recreational time that they get, he was having very positive interactions with the staff, and although he would have preferred to be home he was admitting that he knew he needed help and he felt as though he was getting it. This has been the continuing thread through his entire time, almost 10 weeks so far, at BRC. That although he would prefer to be home he understands that he needs help and that he is getting it there. They do not just treat these kids, they teach them how to understand what makes them tick. They don’t just medicate or fluff over what is going on they dig deep and force the kids to get real and make real changes for lifelong success. Our son sounds like a little therapist himself now as he explains how he “asks for space” when he is overwhelmed, how he “accepts and moves on” from consequences without becoming violent, how he supported a peer that was struggling, and more importantly how he was able to regroup after a negative encounter. They are using techniques that are amazing with the kids. These techniques teach an awareness of self and their surroundings that are going to be critical when he transitions home. As an aside to all our son has learned our other boys have learned some simple techniques that make it easier for them to interact with each other and with us when they are frustrated or unhappy.
One unexpected benefit of him being at BRC is that we found out that one of his medications was causing damage to his liver. BRC requires the kids to see a pediatrician and have a physical and regular bloodwork. Although our son was a healthy kid and we kept up with his annual physical we had no idea trouble was brewing. He has since been taken off of the medication and continued monitoring is in place to ensure that his body is recovering. Unlike the acute facility who, each of the three admissions, upped his medications BRC has only expressed a desire to stabilize and if possible reduce the number of medications that he is on. They understand that the health risks and side effects of these very strong medications are not always worth the risk. The fact that the staff at BRC is concerned with his overall physical health through medication management, diet and exercise, blood work and pediatric appointments is just a bonus.
We have worked with a variety of therapists, psychiatrists, and school personnel and never have we seen the success that we have experienced through BRC. I shudder to think where we would be if we had not had BRC in our backyard as we did. We are at a place where we are preparing for his transition home. We would be lying if we didn’t expect there to be challenges but we are now armed with the tools to face those challenges and that is all because of the program at BRC. More importantly than the program are the people because if they did not believe in the program or it they were not so dedicated in implementing the program then this would not be possible.