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A new approach to behavioral health care

tj laRocque png2The 2015 Christmas Forest fund-a-need is helping provide a new approach to better serve a stigmatized population. TJ LaRocque has been a provider of mental health services for over 18 years, the last seven with Providence St. Peter Hospital, helping oversee the St. Peter Hospital psychiatric unit. During this time, he has gained significant perspective on how our systems provide help – and sometimes create barriers – for those with behavioral health challenges accessing services they need to succeed. LaRocque and many agree that services in our community operate as stand-alone programs, leaving vulnerable individuals to navigate a difficult and complex system.

LaRocque is helping the community look at how services are delivered across multiple agencies to provide them more effectively. The result is a collaborative center that will provide a single point of access for individuals, especially those with mental health challenges, in need of medication management, addiction, housing, and many other services.

One approach the center will be taking is using a vulnerability index, which identifies which individuals are at the most risk, to best focus resources, especially housing, which is seen as the foundation on which additional services are built. “Historically, these are the folks that are lost and not able to get into traditional services, the way they’re normally provided,” says LaRocque. “We’re taking those individuals, the folks who will be the most challenging to house, and we look for creative ways to house them, and make sure they have the support services in place to stay housed.”

The key to this center’s success will be collaboration among vital partners and providers in the community, all of whom bring distinct and critical services to the project. “We’ve had some early successes doing this just collaborating a few hours a week.” For instance, says LaRocque, “We’ve stabilized people who were having many emergency visits a year, were seeing law enforcement regularly, and were kicked out of most of the services that provide food or shelter. They’re the most challenging clients to provide service.”

LaRocque says the positive responses from partner agencies has been overwhelming. “We’re already reaping early benefits just from the relationships we’re developing. We’re starting to deliver care in a new way, and we’re seeing ourselves as a team – a team to support the individuals.”

“The idea that we’re not alone, that each person that provides care is not alone in their effort to make something work for somebody, we’re in this together. I wake up in the morning with a new level of hope.”