I’m really excited today to be joined with Kelly Grebe, who’s the community liaison. Community liaison for Colorado Recovery and then Dr. Kathleen Daly, who’s the Medical Director for Colorado recovery. It’s nice to have you both here. Really excited to hear more about what you all are doing. You’ve had an opportunity to spend some time with us here at Harmony and we got really excited when we get to talk to people who work with folks with mental health and want to learn more about services because obviously there’s such a need for it in our communities. And so, we’re going to talk a little bit about what you all do and then ask a little question or two about you personally as well.
Thanks for having us. It’s been wonderful to tour Harmony. It’s been really great. Seeing everything you do.
Yeah, and I think the weather has been most cooperative. It’s always hit or miss. You never know what you’re going to get. So, mountain life and all of that. So I had a chance to spend some time on your website and learning a little bit about Colorado recovery and your founder, Dr. Richard Warner, made a point of saying that recovery from mental illness is about more than just getting rid of the symptoms and staying out of hospital. It’s about regaining a sense of identity, belonging, and meaning in life. I think that a lot of people who don’t understand mental health and mental illness, there’s a big stigma attached to it and he clearly was very forward thinking in his approach to working with people with mental illness. And so I’m wondering if you can share a little bit more about how that philosophy that he created back in the day has carried over into the program and into the mission. And I’m going to lean on you D. Daly, to answer that question.
Sure. Yeah. I think what you said about stigma is really a big piece of this because we, not only do we, are we providing mental health treatment, but we provide mental health treatment to people who have schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder, most of the time have had some kind of episodes of psychosis. And there’s a lot of stigma around those diagnoses and those symptoms. And with that stigma, a thought that if you have that illness, you’re doomed to be outcasted from society, and be homeless, and living on the street. And a big part of the mission of Colorado Recovery has continued to be, helping those individuals as well as their families understand that while it’s a chronic illness, most of the time they can regain a sense of purpose and feel valuable to the world. That they are valuable. That they have a lot of gifts as well. And so from the very beginning, we really try to promote that idea of recovery and also hold for them, that recovery is very individualized, and it’s what they want for themselves, and what they want their life to look like.
And I… again the stigma that’s typically attached to people with mental health issues is that they’re usually homeless, that they’re usually nonproductive members of society. And so creating a shift in thinking around the fact that people with, whether it’s persistent mental health issues or not, have the ability to be functional members of society and maybe just don’t have the resources necessarily to do what they need to do. It sounds like you all are creating an infrastructure to help support folks in that capacity. Can you talk a little bit specifically, a little bit about some of the services that someone would get when they come to your program?
Sure. So, one example… in my role at Colorado Recovery, I do a couple of things. One is vocational rehabilitation for people. So I had a student that just recently finished his college degree and when he first came to me, I think that diagnosis is very defeating. And so really going to work with that part of, you belong here, you can do this, despite those people internalize the stigmas around those. So it’s really, I love my job, that part of my job where I get to work with someone and really help them succeed where they had struggled before. So this particular student ended up graduating with a high GPA. At one point, he thought he couldn’t go back to his traditional University. Thought he was, could only go to Community College. We helped him get neuropsych testing and he was delighted to find he had a very high IQ. Really trying to target those barriers for someone to really say, you belong here and you’re a part of this.
So creating, it’s not just about the clinical treatment with mental health issues, it’s also creating life skills and resiliency, is what I’m hearing. And that the program is much broader than just addressing some of the clinical aspects of what comes with mental health issues. But looking at, how do you help people feel like they can be engaged in their life and being productive in their life? Helping somebody get access to, helping them get a college degree, or getting a job, or staying intact with their relationships, all play a part, I’m assuming when working with people with mental health issues. Is that fair to say?
Kelly: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. It’s a big part of it.
So your programming, it’s got a great depth to it. And one of the things that I read about is that you’ve got this concept around social engagement and why is this such an important part of the services that you offer? What is it, first of all, and then how do you all utilize it with your clients?
So when we started, our founder Dr. Warner, was very into community-based integrated programming. So we follow a clubhouse model and we call our particular clubhouse client-led program, the Tree House. And it’s really a normalizing space where people come and no clinical staff are allowed in that space without permission. Vocational staff are allowed and a community organizer, that helps really foster the sense of community amongst our clients. And so, I think that part is really key to the longterm wellness of people where they form peer relationships, they do really fun things together. Our wilderness therapy activities are… it’s a hub for those things where they do a lot of the planning process and I think it’s just another piece of the previous question that belonging, that sense of belonging and people that they can also relate to. So it’s a special location where other people that have struggled with mental health challenges, they can be free and open talking about those things.
I think, it’s interesting listening to you talk about this, we had a conversation about this earlier at lunch around the fact that there’s always been this like push-pull between addiction and mental health. And that we needed to… as a behavioral health field, do a better job of integration between the two. And what you’re speaking about is very similar to developing community and peer support in addiction treatment recovery, which is such a huge part of longterm sobriety. And so what you’re talking about, in this community model that you’ve created, is something very similar where you have to have, and I think that’s a solution for a lot of things, is community. And it sounds like that’s what you… and empowerment. Allowing people to feel like they’re a part of the process instead of dictating to them what they can and cannot do. And I’m assuming that’s what you found to be very successful in doing this social engagement program.
We have. And then I think just to add, in addition to the Tree House and everything that we have within our outpatient services, when clients first come into our program, in the residential setting at Balsam House it’s, there’s been a lot of effort made to make it feel like a home and not clinical. I think many people in this, many of our clients have some complex trauma from in-patient hospitalizations and from the way they’ve been treated by the medical field in general. And so we really try to make it a place where they feel comfortable. And even with subtle things like lunch every day, staff comes and sits and eats with clients as well, breaking down those hierarchies. And they’re very involved in… our residential specialists, our milieu workers, are involved with them day to day and will sit and play a game along with providing some…
And this summer we had a super fun, we’ve had two super fun kickball games.
So yeah, the clinical staff, the clients, everyone comes together and plays kickball. And that’s just been a really… I had so much fun.
Well and I think, again I think the more we learn about our respective work that we do, the better job we do in helping our clients be more successful. And I really do value the work that you all are doing around the community piece too. Because it’s so important. So Dr. Daly, where do you see the future of mental health treatment going and do you see that it’s improving or do you think it’s gone backwards?
My initial reaction was, how much time do I have? I think there’s a lot of aspects to mental health treatment that have improved in the last 10 years, just partially because of education and research. And the more that we learn about our brains in general, the more we can understand. And really various therapeutic models that are much more effective than maybe some therapeutic models of the past. But I think where the real issue is, is access. So amazing mental health treatment does exist out there, but it’s access to those services that’s really difficult for most people. And that’s really where, as a society, I think we can do better and really, we need to do better. Within our own community, I think one positive thing that have occurred recently was the approval of, it was amendment 1A. But essentially it was a tax that 75% of Boulder County said yes on, to create an alternative sentencing facility with the Boulder County jail. And this, the idea of this was specifically for people with substance abuse and mental illness to try and get them out of the traditional jail setting, and into… the facility itself has been described as having more barrack-type, and with a lot of intensive case management built in, work release programs. A real push to get them out of the criminal system, when they are there largely due to charges based on substance abuse issues, homelessness, and mental illness.
I have a long history with working in community mental health and the number of my clients who were homeless with schizophrenia who had, were arrested for a failure to appear warrant, where the original charges were trespassing because they’re homeless, and they didn’t know that they needed to appear in court. And then, and they just get stuck in that cycle. And so, I think it was a really great move on the part of Boulder County to just recognize this isn’t… this is just getting bigger and we need to help have, truly a more effective rehabilitation program. And it’s got to involve mental health treatment, and substance abuse treatment, and intensive case management.
Well so, I’m going to shift gears a little bit and talk about just, both of you and individually, because we always like to get to know the people behind the program. I’m going to look at you Kelly and ask you, what books have you gifted to others in the past and what is your favorite book?
I am in a book club, so maybe that’ll help me here with this question. What I’ve gifted most recently and I think most often, is this Mindfulness on the Go deck actually. So I found it, I bought it for my own work, doing group work with clients and things like that. So, and I can’t remember who the author of this deck is, but it really has been helpful. I know mindfulness… we always say mindfulness, mindfulness. But this deck gets into some really cool nitty-gritty things to practice the mindfulness. So one of the examples would be, becoming mindful of the awareness of doorways. And so, symbolizing those things. Okay, this doorway is an opportunity to be present. Kind of like this Bright Eyes song. I swear I was born right in the doorway. So trying to renew every moment and having those little things. And I’ve actually given a couple decks to clients that I felt like really needed that to take with them when they left treatment with us. And things like that.
I’m going to circle back with you to get the name of that so that we can put it into the show notes and that way people can access it. Because it sounds like a really lovely tool. I think I would really love them.
And I love, I do love poetry. I do find it, in my work with clients, if I can say something in a way, it accesses just a different part of the person. I love the poetry of Hafiz, The Gift. And just that, the poems are talking a lot about light, and connecting with your divine, and that it’s always a part of you, and it’s just really beautiful works. So.
And we’ll make sure to put a link on that as well so that folks can get some more information about it. And then for you, Dr. Daly, if I were to offer up the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
I… when I hear the word harmony, I think something like balance comes to mind. But my view of a life of balance isn’t necessarily walking through it in a perfectly Zen state. Because that’s not realistic for human beings. But truly embracing the depths of emotions that we all experience. And being able to walk through tragic times as well as happiness times, happier times. And recognize that you have to have one, in order to truly experience the other.
It’s a very Buddhist way of looking at it.
Yes, I was raised Buddhist. So part of it…Stems from that.
It’s not for effect and I totally agree with that too. So, thanks for sharing that. That’s really nice. And then if folks who are listening today wanting to access services at Colorado Recovery, Kelly how could they get in touch with you?
The best way to just get all the information that someone would need, to go to our website, coloradorecovery.com. And remember, I know we’re in the substance treatment world, but remember the recovery, we’re recovering primarily from mental health disorders. So recovery can also mean recovery from those things. So remembering that, that’s what we do, would be great.
It sure will, yes. Thank you both so much for taking the time and for your entire team visiting us here at Harmony. We are very appreciative of your resources and we know, we use you all for our clients and so we encourage those listening to do the same. So thank you very much.