Crossroads: Tell us about the work you do as a clinical case manager.
RH: As a clinical case manager, my job is to meet with my clients to determine their needs and work with them to access the resources that fulfill those needs. Those needs can vary and range from helping them find apartment listings for housing, to assisting them in contacting family members or friends, to applying for rental or utility assistance, and more.
Even today, I am going to meet with one of my clients who is living in a nursing home. She is now stably housed, but genuinely needs some company and a listening ear, so as part of my job, I get to provide her with that support.
Crossroads: What makes the clinical partnerships we have with our organization and our clients so important?
RH: One of the best parts of these clinical partnerships is they provide us with the ease of accessing care for our clients. These partnerships allow us to skip the line in a sense, because we are working with them through Crossroads, to help us get our clients the support they need.
Through our partners we are able to provide clients with wraparound services like the ability to speak with a therapist, receive medication they need, work with a psychiatrist, access transportation, and more to obtain and maintain a healthy lifestyle that accommodates their mental health challenges.
Crossroads: What role does mental health play for those experiencing homelessness?
RH: In a lot of ways, homelessness can worsen mental health issues. Experiencing homelessness is already a traumatic experience, and it can leave you with a lot of fear and paranoia when it comes to finding a safe place to rest, being unsure if other people are following you, and not knowing when or where your next meal is going to come from.
Homelessness is also this all-encompassing experience and can become a substantial distraction from treating your mental health. When you’re experiencing homelessness, your first priority is finding a place to stay. Not to mention the difficulties that come with trying to treat a mental health disability when you don’t have stable housing: You don’t have the resources to visit with a doctor, you might not have a safe place to store medication or might have your medication stolen.
Homelessness places you in a mode of survival, and mental health treatment is forced to take a backseat. If it came down to affording medication or a meal, which would you pick?
Crossroads: What would you like people to know about those affected by mental health challenges?
RH: I think I would tell people not to judge others by their diagnosis.
You might not understand why someone is acting a certain way, to you their behavior might seem strange or confusing. But that behavior is not them, it is their disability. It is something they cannot help, and without access to treatment, can't overcome on their own.
When I was working as a case manager in Boston, I had a client who was on the spectrum. She would easily get overstimulated by loud noises or big crowds or too much commotion. She was trying so hard to find work, but as soon as she would find a job, it would quickly become overwhelming and she would have to quit. Many people just thought she was lazy, but she wanted to maintain a job so badly despite the fact that the work she could access was harmful to her mental health.
Crossroads: What is your “why” for the work you do? What has brought you to this work?
RH: I have been in human services for a very long time, and a lot of people who know me ask me this question because I would consider myself a pretty introverted person. As someone who is shy, I think a lot of people would wonder why I go out of my way to work with people.
But for me, pursuing this work was inspired by my younger brother. He has always struggled with his mental health, and seeing the way he was treated and how there was so little support for him made me want to advocate for people just like him.
I promised myself growing up that I would help folks that were in the same position as my brother, to give them a voice and be the support that they need when they don’t have anyone or anything else to fall back on. I do it because of him.