Ding! Dong! No, it's not Avon calling. Rather it's two representatives from Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley's Medical Mobile Crisis Services making a house call. Individuals with bipolar disorder who call crisis services may discover that rather than being instructed to go to the nearest hospital emergency room, they'll receive a house call.

It's a pilot program offered by Lehigh County Crisis Intervention, a mental health emergency telephone line. The aim of the program is to reduce the number of emergency room visits of people with a variety of mental illnesses, bipolar disorder included. Any resident of the county is eligible, whether he carries health insurance or not.

According to Marjorie Kovacs, the county's deputy mental health administrator, this represents a much better - and sorely needed --method of dealing with mental health issues, including bipolar disorder.

While the Medical Mobile van carries a short-term supply of medications to disperse to those with bipolar disorder undergoing an episode, the program isn't solely about drug treatment. Team members say the first priority is to help a person with bipolar disorder or another mental health problem cope in the familiar environment of their own home.

In some cases the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder may result in suicidal tendencies of those affected. While telephone intervention is many times effective, fast, direct contact from truly caring individuals may make all the difference in the decision of a person with bipolar disorder to carry out the thought. About 15 percent of all persons affected with bipolar disorder have suicidal thoughts when they experience a depressive.

The program has already helped many people who suffer from bipolar disorder. Just one example is the gentleman who in the past five years lost his white collar job three times due to downsizing. The 41-year-old could no longer afford his bipolar medication since he had no health insurance. The $400 price tag on the drug put the medicine far out of the family's budget. He had been without medication for two weeks - and hadn't slept well in that time period. Thanks to Lehigh Valley's program, he was able to receive his medication.

But more than that, the program helped this gentleman suffering with bipolar disorder to navigate the maze of social services to find an agency to aid him in receiving either free medication for his bipolar disorder of the drugs at a reduced cost.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition in which the individual is plagued by bouts of manic episodes and those of depressive ones. The severity and frequency of these episodes vary.