Published on May 27, 2022

Partial Hospitalization Program Helps St. Johns Man Change His Thinking for the Better

Photo of Drew Fowler standing on a walking bridge enjoying the weather.

Through the Partial Hospitalization Program at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma and support from his family, helped Andrew Fowler found a lease on life.

Drew Fowler, 31, had been on and off medications prescribed to treat mental illness since his early twenties. Finding the appropriate medication for his chemistry was challenging. In addition, struggles with substance abuse often interfered, making it difficult to identify and successfully treat source issues. Things became rough enough for Fowler that he attempted suicide twice which landed him as an inpatient on MyMichigan Medical Center Alma’s Behavioral Health unit for his own safety. Subsequently, it was the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) and staff at MyMichigan that helped him find a path to healing and independence.

Fowler is a welder by trade. He works side by side with his brother, and his sister and parents live nearby. From the outside, one might not recognize the turmoil beneath the surface but years of working with providers tweaking medications without relief from dark thoughts had taken a toll.  Two week-long sessions at MyMichigan’s PHP program helped him turn the corner.

“I cannot overstate how much I love the staff there and how great this program was for me,” Fowler said. “I had worked with Michelle Lucchesi, M.A., previously in another setting. When I saw her face at this program, it instantly put me at ease.”

Alma’s PHP program is one of only three partial hospitalization programs available to residents in Michigan north of Lansing. The program offers daily treatment sessions with patients going home each evening to put into action what they’ve learned. The Alma team includes Lucchesi, Will Thomas, M.A., and Louise St. John, R.N., who all work closely with local psychiatrists, therapists and primary care providers for extended patient care. During Fowler’s course of treatment, he stayed with his parents.

“I am certainly fortunate to have a great family that supports me,” said Fowler. “What made me willing to put the work in for this particular program was the staff’s commitment to helping me make a plan to get back to living on my own safely. That shared goal motivated me.”

The PHP has daily group therapy sessions as well as a weekly one-on-one. Fowler reported that group sessions were important in order to be exposed to different perspectives, learn how to listen more intently and apply others’ lessons to his own situation. “It helped me realize how important treating others with kindness and respect is,” he said. “We are all going through difficult things, but we can help each other. That type of sharing brought me to a place where I could stop asking why something happened and start asking ‘what can I learn from it?’

Fowler has since found the correct medications and doses that work for him, and he continues using techniques he learned in PHP. He finds visualization, or imagining something positive in your mind, helpful. He also regularly uses square breathing, or box breathing. This technique slows breathing by focusing on counting your breath: breathe in for four seconds; hold four seconds; breathe out for four seconds; hold four seconds; repeat. “When I am experiencing stress or anxiety, this helps me so much,” he said. “It releases the tightness in my chest and brings me back into the world. I can do it anywhere. Great tool.”

The entire staff including interns at MyMichigan received high praise from Fowler. He referred to St. John as someone he could “absolutely tell anything” because of her kindness, expertise and attention. He has even recommended the program to others he has noticed struggling. “I’m more open now,” he said. When asked what else he’d like to share with someone considering treatment, he replied “Sometimes, a person’s thinking is flawed. It’s nobody’s fault. But if you can change your thinking, you can change your life.”

The PHP program accepts voluntary self-referrals, community or physician referral. Sessions are held Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those interested in more information may call (989) 466-3253. Those interested in more information on MyMichigan’s comprehensive behavioral health programs may visit www.mymichigan.org/mentalhealth.