Spotlight On: Leslie Lipson and Crisis Services

Published Minding Your Health - October 2016

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The very nature of crisis intervention involves traumatic and emergency situations. As the Director of Crisis Services at Holcomb Behavioral Health Systems for the past nine years, Leslie Lipson knows the demands and the challenges that come with the work. She also appreciates the rewards of seeing someone through a critical, frightening time.

Lipson says the concepts of community healthcare and serving others was part of her upbringing. Her father was a physician with a public health emphasis, and her mother was a medical social worker. Both of her sisters, including her twin, worked in community healthcare professions as well.

“My parents were socially conscious, and they stressed that to my sisters and I. Serving others was valued,” said Lipson, who grew up in Rockville Maryland.
Her first job in mental health was 25 years ago, working with chronically mentally ill adults in partial hospitalization pro-gram. That direct care experience was important, because it ignited her passion for serving a population that needed a voice.

“I loved that job because I had the opportunity to really know these adults who had so much to offer, but [much of society] had given up on them,” said Lipson, who earned her Masters of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania.

In the late 1990’s Lipson was working in mobile crisis, which brought the care to individuals in the community. It broad-ened her view of mental healthcare because not only did she see chronically ill adults, she saw young people, and others who were new to the system.

“At that time, I went to my first suicide prevention confer-ence and came back with a greater understanding.”
After the conference, Lipson worked with others to develop the Delaware County Suicide Prevention Task Force, one of the largest and most active suicide prevention groups in the region. Last month she was one of the speakers supporting the Chester County Suicide Prevention Sym-posium. She said the need for in-creased awareness has never been greater.

“In the last nine years, we have nev-er served so many people,” she said referring to the September 2016 statistics for Holcomb’s Valley Creek Crisis Intervention Services. Some of the challenges include more complex cases, where individ-uals are using multiple systems and having multiple medical problems.
“Collaboration among the systems is better today,” Lipson acknowledged. “But, yes, [working in crisis intervention] can still be stressful.”

Managing the job stress is important, and Lipson says that being a parent to her 10-year-old son, Max, has helped her find work-life balance. “Being a parent is a very mindful practice. I have a lot of different self-care, from walking, yoga and cooking, but engaging with my son is the best.” And although much of her work today is less direct care and more oversight, outreach, and developing policies, there are still times when Lipson has the chance to see positive out-comes from those who used Chester County’s crisis services.

“We have satisfaction surveys, and some of them can make you want to cry. Someone will say that they had no hope, but we were able to help them through it,” she said. “This is why we’re here. This is what keeps us going.”