Acute Residential, (S.T.A.R.T.)

Psychiatrist directed 24/7 alternative to admission to or “step down” from an acute care psychiatric hospital.

Michael’s Story

Despite having prescriptions for more than a half dozen psychotropic medications, 12-year-old Michael did not have the diagnosis that would eventually help professionals deal effectively with his behavioral problems. It takes finely-tuned and clearly focused eyes and ears—in short, people with the proper diagnostic and therapeutic skills—to reach those conclusions, and when Michael was admitted to the START Program (Short-Term Acute Residential Treatment), he benefited from the fine-tuning and clear focus that is part of every admission plan at The Children’s Center of Hamden.
Michael arrived at the START Program after three hospitalizations in just three months—another clear sign that specialized care and attention was needed. He had a history of severe mood swings and social aggression. His recurrent ‘acting out’ was an unmistakable signal that

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something needed to be done as quickly as possible. Finally, Asperger’s Syndrome was identified, and both individual and family therapy sessions were initiated at the START program. Michael’s therapy focused on several areas: discovering the causes of his severe anxiety and stormy moods; dealing with them in a resolute and consistent manner; setting proper limits; improving communication with family, friends and therapists; and helping him and his family understand the sensitivities and idiosyncrasies of his disorder.

Despite several instances for which Michael needed some restraint, the therapy continued and after a short time started to bring more normalcy into his life. Furthermore, START staffers were able to make arrangements for an effective, customized method of transportation for Michael, who lives more than an hour away from The Children’s Center, so that weekly family therapy sessions could continue.

Michael was discharged from the START program into the full-time care of his family less than four months after he was first admitted. What’s clear is that some numbers are down and others nonexistent:  now he has only two psychotropic medications, there have been no more instances requiring restraint, and the optimism is way up.

What Our Acute Residential Program Provides

START is an intensive 24-hour, out of home “step down” program for youth who have achieved a level of stability in a psychiatric inpatient hospital setting, but who still require intensive out-of-home clinical services.  START has also been used as a hospital diversion program.  Treatment is overseen by a psychiatrist and is more structured than traditional residential treatment, while still offering an open setting with regular access to the community. Clinical services include individual, family and group therapies. The Psychiatrist approves treatment plan and provides medication management as needed.
For more information contact Nick DeMaio, LCSW, x282 or email

What Our Families Say

Thank you for everything. Our son is coming back to us, Sundays are getting harder and harder to return him. I don’t really know exactly how to express just how thankful, appreciative and lucky we feel to have everyone working with our son to help him get back home, understanding what happens with him as well as him having a better understanding of himself. I know we have more work but we see a light in a tunnel that seemed extremely dark last year.

Chrissy and Adam P.