Gaining Strength
Summit Behavioral Health expands its already vast array of treatment options to include a partial hospitalization program to better serve individuals in recovery
by Leigh Stuart

The disease of addiction, like cancer and heart disease, does not discriminate. Individuals of all races, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds can find themselves suffering from addiction.

In the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area, an annual average of 825,000 persons aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the past year, according to a 2010 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That number correlates to 16.6 percent of the population in the area, compared with the national average of 14.7 percent. Even more alarming is the rate of drug-related deaths in the United States, which has leapt from an annual total of 7,101 in 1979 to 40,393 in 2010, according to a recent White House report.

Considering the scope of this epidemic of substance abuse and addiction, it is not surprising that the substance abuse treatment facilities of Summit Behavioral Health have grown exponentially in the three years since the first Summit facility opened its doors.

Thomas Allen, owner and CEO of Summit Behavioral Health, says Summit’s rapid growth is due to rising addiction rates that are “unparalleled in recent memory.” Philadelphia and Newark, N.J., in particular have become epicenters for heroin abuse, he says.

Kristin Wilson, vice president of marketing with Summit, notes that in New Jersey in 2011, the number of deaths by overdose exceeded the number of deaths by motor vehicle collisions.

Such statistics certainly speak to the need for recovery facilities in the area. Summit has worked hard to develop an effective formula for helping individuals overcome their struggles with substance abuse, including a physical environment that is welcoming, appealing and conducive to recovery; a spectrum of integrative and holistic programming; and a committed, dynamic staff of compassionate healing professionals.

“It sounds cliché, but we treat other people the way we would want to be treated,” Allen says. “I designed [Summit] with the question in mind, ‘Would I stay here?’ If I can’t answer that in the affirmative, I can’t ask a family to entrust a loved one during this critical stage in their life.”

Every client, Allen explains, receives a comprehensive assessment when they come in to a Summit facility to surmise what level of care the client needs. Summit professionals evaluate factors such as acuity and symptomology to determine the best course of treatment for each person. He says, “We treat every client like we would treat a family member who’s suffering from the disease [of addiction].”

The newest addition to Summit’s rehabilitative repertoire is a partial hospitalization program (PHP), a treatment option that is more aggressive than Summit’s outpatient program, yet not as intensive as full in-patient treatment.

Wilson says that clients recommended for the PHP are individuals who might not be functional enough to hold down a job or stay in college but who do not need the structure of a live-in program. PHP clients do, however, need to be able to participate in controlled treatment for six to seven hours each day, during which time clients learn about not only the disease of addiction but also their triggers and symptoms, as well as how to create and manage healthy lifestyles for themselves.

Maria Ulmer, Summit’s executive director of adult clinical operations, explains that PHP participants benefit from group and individual therapy sessions, as well as medical treatment during program hours, which are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We educate clients on topics like mindfulness, coping and relapse prevention,” Ulmer says. “We prepare them to stabilize and reintegrate into society.

“With the group and individual therapies, we also want to integrate holistic services to enhance [the client’s] process,” Ulmer continues, explaining that holistic therapies can include yoga, meditation and “experiential acts” such as rock climbing, horseback riding and art or music therapy.

To coordinate such a vast roster of activities, Summit has amassed a staff of highly trained professionals skilled in all manner of fields relating to addiction rehabilitation. This team of treatment experts includes medical physicians, advanced practice nurses, RNs, LPNs and med techs; master’s-level clinicians and social workers; marriage and family therapists; and licensed addiction professionals.

Allen notes that Summit prefers to hire employees with a higher level of credentials than the state requires. He also says that Summit aims to keep a low client-to-clinician ratio, as this is the best way to ensure personalized care for each client.

“All of our staff members—everyone from the call center operators to our people on site—have a passion for wanting to help people,” Ulmer says. “Everyone wants to be a compass and give as much as they can to help save lives.”

“Our clinical and administrative support staffs work cohesively as a team,” Allen adds. “We have a very client-centered mentality, and we meet clients where they are. Clients are not judged or criticized, or exposed to the stigma that is so strongly sent out in our communities.”

Wilson echoes this sentiment by suggesting that what sets Summit apart is the team’s integrated approach to treatment and use of evidence-based practices. “We all really share the vision treating the whole person,” she says. “Clients are respected and … we’re also very mindful of understanding triggers, what it is that’s causing the behavior, and really taking the time with clients to figure out a plan.”

Presently, Summit’s Doylestown location is offering the partial hospitalization program, and a Summit facility in Princeton Junction, N.J. (866-501-9519), will be offering the PHP program soon.

“Addiction is an illness people don’t like to talk about,” Allen says. “One of the things we try to do is reduce that stigma. From the time a person picks up the phone to call us, they are not just a number; they are a human being. … The time clients spend with us is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of their lives. We are privileged to have a person for a short period of time, and we’re looking to make a lasting impact.”

Summit Behavioral Health at Doylestown
702 Hyde Park
Doylestown, PA 18902
For more information about additional Summit Behavioral Health facilities, visit

Photograph by Allure West Studios