Welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m Gina Thorne and I’m really excited today to be joined with Barbara Ryan, who’s the outreach and provider specialist for WestBridge, out of Manchester, New Hampshire. Welcome.
Really happy to have you on campus today and I’m glad the weather turned out because we’ve had some sketchy weather lately, so it’s great to have you here visiting the Rockies. I don’t know, is this your first time at Harmony?
It is my first time and it’s a beautiful campus and everybody’s been so hospitable, so thank you for the invitation.
Well, I’m really excited to talk about WestBridge. I’ve known about WestBridge for some time, and I want to make sure our listeners hear more about your program. Before we do that, I’m always interested in talking about the person first. I’m curious to hear more about your background and what got you into the field of behavioral health.
In June it will be 20 years that I’ve been working in behavioral health. My background is… I have a MPA from UNM. I’ve been, like I said, in behavioral health for 20 years, working in a variety of positions from corporate to working for CPS, domestic violence, managing a homeless shelter, a transitional housing program. I worked for a managed care company for about seven years. I will be with WestBridge for five years in May. It’s really a fun job that I really enjoy.
It sounds like you were able to take a combination of lots of different experiences to get to where you are, which is great. I really love the WestBridge model and I want to share more with all of you about who WestBridge is. I know it’s a nonprofit like Harmony, which of course it’s always near and dear to my heart. WestBridge works with many teen and over who have dual-diagnosis issues. Correct? Can you share a little bit more about the treatment model that you all use? I’m very interested particularly around the idea of ACT and how that works.
In our facility we use a combination of CBT. We do some DBT skill building. We treat both disorders, so we work with individuals with mood and thought disorders, PTSD and major depression. Our population are adult men with serious and persistent mental illness and substance use. Many times that looks like polysubstance use when folks come in. They don’t necessarily have to have a substance use diagnosis, but if there’s some coping with substances that is triggered by the mental health disorder, then we will work with that as well. We treat both disorders concurrently at the same time with the same team.
We have a residential program with 12 beds and typically folks stay between two and four months, sometimes a little longer depending on what the presentation is and what their needs are. Then they typically stepped down into our assertive community treatment. That model is an evidence based model. Our program is a research based, evidence based program. We’ve worked very closely with the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center to develop and refine the program that we have today. Pretty much all of our approaches and the tools that we use are evidence-based. In a sort of community treatment, it’s an intensive wraparound community care. We focus on functionality, community integration, and we really work with folks on wellness, whole health and really working towards the goals that they set for themselves, whether that’s employment. We work with individuals to attain the skills that they need, including in many cases returning to college and getting a diploma or a degree that they’re pursuing and then leveraging that to gain gainful employment.
It’s intensive, wraparound care from morning to night. We can serve individuals upwards of 60 hours of one on one side support everything from medication management in their home to doing individual sessions to having mentors work with them in the evening hours to ensure that their apartments are clean, that their hygiene is being maintained, that they’re connecting with community resources that will support their recovery and longterm, that they’re developing good social networks that will sustain them through longterm recovery, that they have proper nutrition. We’ll go and open the refrigerator and make sure that they have good healthy meals and there’s not 10 pizza boxes in there. It’s really intensive wraparound support. We also do sleep assessment because we know that many individuals with mental health disorders have sleep disorders, so we work with them to develop a hygiene plan and have sleep coaches that work with them. It’s a very intensive wraparound approach to care in the community.
We also do a lot of really great work with families. We have an evidence based curriculum called family education and support and it’s psychoeducation. It really empowers families with the knowledge that they need to help their loved one manage these two chronic disorders for a lifetime. It gives them the tools, the knowledge, the skillset and the practice to implement some of those things. We have a very robust family program that not only educates but also supports them with family mentoring, with family support groups, father support groups, sibling support groups. We also do monthly educational webinars with families, quarterly newsletters specifically for families. We have family mentoring, so families who have been far along in their recovery, have been in their journey of recovery for a while will mentor families that are just coming into WestBridge. The family members are volunteers. We do background checks. We train them on ethics. They also get individuals supervision with our family services director who is a licensed clinician. She does supervision individually and as a group on a monthly basis. It’s really a robust program and support for families.
It really is, and I’ve noticed him for those of you that are listening to check out the WestBridge website, you’ve got an entire page dedicated to your outcomes around the impact of the type of treatment that you offer, which was really impressive to me. I really suggest for those of you that are curious about this model, which is actually, it’s evidence based, but it’s not common. I don’t hear a lot of treatment programs or resource programming that does what you guys do. I really appreciate that you’re taking what can be considered a really acute type of condition and creating a way for people to live a full life in sustainability. That’s what I’ve always loved about the WestBridge model and I’ve had the opportunity to engage with your alumni and they’re just amazing people who are excited about life and excited about living in a place of just total and recovery. I can’t say enough about it. Thank you for that thorough feedback around the nature of your program. I’m curious particularly about your integrated dual disorder treatment. IDDT is what you guys call it. I guess it’s a particular modality of treatment that you all offer?
We utilize a CBT and we utilize DBT skill sets and it’s really about building… We’re in a therapeutic community and it’s really skill building and it’s really an opportunity for… Both disorders are treated at the same time with the same team. The approach is that, both disorders are happening in the same brain and they impact each other. Our team is trained to work with those individuals with both disorders at the same time.
That’s wonderful. I think it’s the way it should be really. I think it really needs to be more and more of that. We always like to get to know the person behind the program. I’m going to ask you a couple personal questions. If you could do anything in the next year, 2020, what would you like to accomplish?
Well, I’ve been doing a lot of running and personally I would like to get closer to running a marathon. I’ve gotten as far as running a 10K but I would like to progress in that way.
That’s six miles. I mean the most I’ve run in the past is 12 miles. 12 miles is the farthest I’ve ever run. Around the time I get to that point I get pretty bored.
I get bored at three so I’m impressed that you can make it to 12. What is it that you like about running?
I liked the solidarity. I like the time that it gives me to really think thoroughly about things that are happening in my life. I use a lot of that time to strategize about where I’m going as far as a person in the community, a parent, a sibling, a friend. It gives me a lot of time to pray. I pray when I’m running and then when I start getting bored I listen to audio books. That helps too.
I think it’s so great because what I liked hearing you say is that you understand the importance of building self care into your life and to utilize it in a way that’s going to give you energy and vitality. I think all of us, especially women, we’re always moving and doing things so much that we forget to take care of ourselves. That’s great to do that. If I were to offer up the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
I think it means that live a life of peace where you’re satisfied with where you are and have some goals in the future, but that you’re content and that you’re grateful for the things that you have and the people that you have around you and your place in the world.
Do you feel like you have harmony?
I do. I do. I’m very blessed. There were many times in my life where I didn’t feel that way, but we’re all a work in progress and I’m a work in progress and I feel harmony.
That’s wonderful. If someone wanted to access services at WestBridge, how could they get in touch with you?
Actually the best way to reach WestBridge… We have three wonderful people that answer our admissions line. Our number is 603-634-4444, or they could go to our website westbridge.org. They can find all the information including the outcome study that you mentioned. They can also find updates of our outcomes. Every quarter we put our new outcomes. Any new activities or events or conferences or we’re going to, we update there as well. Any new programming… So we have introduced direct to act admissions and going back to our roots, which is our WestBridge was started. They can find more information on our website around that and including insurance information. I know a lot of folks have a lot of questions around that.
Well thank you Barbara. It’s a pleasure having you on campus. For those of you who haven’t heard of WestBridge before, please check them out online. They’re an amazing program and we of course at Harmony are very excited to build a partnership with you all, so thank you.