A Plan for Recovery: Wilder Promotes Healing with Comprehensive Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Ethan’s priorities are spelled out in neat script in a paper planner. As a first-year college student, he makes time each week to balance his classes and other activities and interests. His to-do list includes pursuing work-study jobs.
But Ethan, a personable man in his mid-20s, is just as focused on recovering from substance abuse and addiction as he is pursuing his education. He blocks off one afternoon each week for mandatory court hearings, and his calendar is sprinkled with appointments at Wilder Community Mental Health and Wellness.
Ethan is taking advantage of a new model of service at Wilder that offers comprehensive, integrated mental and chemical health services. Through this integrated model, called a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, Ethan receives substance abuse counseling, mental health and other supporting services at Wilder. Previously, someone in Ethan’s situation might have needed to coordinate with multiple organizations for the same set of services.
Services at Wilder Come After Near-Death Experiences
Ethan entered the foster care system as a young child and moved from to home to home before he reached adulthood. He started smoking cigarettes and marijuana as a teen before turning to methamphetamines and other drugs. “My childhood was kind of rough,” he says. “I didn’t have a role model to help guide me. As a kid, we need that guidance.”
Ethan continued using drugs and had many near-death experiences, including one last year. Following one of these incidents, he completed 30 days of inpatient drug treatment and then 90 days of outpatient treatment, and became a participant in a special court that included a highly structured program for people who are on probation and are committed to addressing their mental health and substance use issues.
His outpatient treatment counselor recommended continuing services at Wilder. As Ethan recalls, his counselor thought Wilder might be a good fit because the counselors have expertise in working with people of Southeast Asian heritage and understand the importance of how identity and culture impact someone’s mental and chemical health journey, including recovery.
Team Support for Pursuing Goals
At Wilder, Ethan works with a psychiatrist and a therapist who is also a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. A certified peer specialist who has the lived experience of mental illness and substance use helped Ethan learn to use a food shelf and calls him regularly to check in. An adult rehabilitative mental health worker meets him at his college to provide support to help him develop independent living and community skills. Ethan also has help coordinating his services. By design, most of his support team are Southeast Asian and use this lens to help him develop his own sense of meaning and success living in a bicultural world.
At Wilder, Ethan was able to select his primary providers. After meeting with several counselors, he chose to work with Nway Linn because he felt like he connected with her. Providing a choice is an intentional part of Wilder’s person-centered approach to meeting client needs. Rather than tell clients who they’ll see and how their treatment will progress, “we work with our clients on their goals,” Nway says. “What do they want to do, where do they want to go and how can we support them?”
Ethan had started working on his GED before he began working with Wilder staff. He says Nway nudged him to complete his GED and then to pursue his goal of enrolling in college. He began pursuing his associate of arts degree in fall 2018. On a Friday morning shortly after the semester began, Ethan reflected on what he has learned about resilience and creating change over the last year. Seated at a patio outside his college, with his planner in front of him, he says, “You really have to find where you belong and where you feel accepted. From there, you can evolve.”
The individual’s name and identifying information have been de-identified to protect the individual’s privacy.