Kate Powell is an addiction and mental health specialist and founder of The Center for Emotional Health which is expanding in Danbury.
Kate Powell is an addiction and mental health specialist and founder of The Center for Emotional Health which is expanding in Danbury. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Center for Emotional Health

Danbury Addiction, Mental Health Clinician Offers Lifesaving Message For Parents

Did you know if your teenager took a drug overdose, calling 911 is not enough?

"Anybody who has an inkling of whether or not their child has heroin addition should make sure they have the Narcan nasal spray in their house," said Kate Powell, a co-occurring addiction and mental health clinician and the founder in 2015 of the Center for Emotional Health in Danbury.

The lifesaving drug Narcan can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when used at the first sign of overdose and is available in injection or nasal spray at most pharmacies.

But before a crisis, parents who suspect drug use should investigate. Is your teen tired? Are they saying they're sick a lot? Look at their eyes, said Powell. One of the signs of drug abuse is "pinpoint eyes. I can look into any addict's eyes and tell they've been using," said Powell.

Once suspicions seem true, the next "most important" step is to conduct a motivational interview. That's what clinicians do, she explained. The counseling method helps you get to the bottom of the "internal motivation" a drug addict needs to change their behavior.

Punitive action like withholding money or taking away privileges do not work, according to Powell. 

"They're going to get them (drugs) if they want them. Don't check out Facebook. Look into your kid's eyes. If they go in their room a lot, if they're sick, they might be throwing up. Have that Narcan in your house. They'll die right in front of you before 911 gets there."

One method clinicians use to treat co-occurring disorders is stage-based. If they're in "pre-contemplation" and have no desire to quit heroin, you need to come at them with encouraging words, Powell said.

"Come around the back door to get them to realize that they decide to get treatment. It's most important fo them to realize themselves."

"The worse thing parents can do is scream and yell and send them to a month in rehab. It won't take."

Her specialty is in addiction, especially to opiates.

"I have a lot of heroin addicts on my caseload," she said.

The Center for Emotional Health is expanding its services and adding new therapists to help meet the increasing need for addiction and mental health treatment in northern Fairfield County.

“Unfortunately, access to addiction and mental health services are often extremely limited for those who need it the most,” said Powell. "Many are faced with either long waiting lists or high out-of-pocket costs for more immediate care. By expanding our practice, we hope to help more people in the community who struggle with addiction and mental health issues but don’t know where to turn.”

Powell started the Danbury center after a successful career directing both adult and adolescent psychiatric and addiction services that included running a methadone clinic in New York City with more than 300 clients.

The center uses person-centered, solution-focused psychotherapy treatments for a range of symptoms including addiction - particularly to opiates and alcohol - anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, marital challenges, trauma and more. Husky insurance and Medicare participants are also accepted.

Powell received her bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Miami in 1990, a master of social work from Florida State University in 1993, and a master of public health in healthcare management from Columbia in 1999. 

Prior to starting her own practice, she served as the director of Psychiatric Services at Griffin Hospital and managed the Child Psychiatry and Substance Abuse program at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. 

She also worked as the director of outpatient mental health services at Rushford Center, a satellite of Hartford healthcare, and as director of outpatient clinical services in the Bridgeport region of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health Services and Addiction.