Guiding the Way

Appreciation For a Counselor

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WestCare California is home for so many amazing individuals who put their hearts into their work on a daily basis all for the purpose of “Uplifting the Human Spirit” of all of those that we proudly serve. We are happy to share a way that one client showed her appreciation for one such individual, Tracy Herrera.

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“I just wanted to take a moment to recognize a staff member who has gone above and beyond here at the MLK facility. A week or so ago, I was approached by a client who asked me for a special request. This client asked me to make a certificate for her counselor, Tracy. When asked why she wanted to give her a certificate, the client stated that her counselor Tracy ‘Always goes above and beyond for her clients. She believes in us when no one else does and she deserves to be recognized for it.’ I, as a staff member, completely agree. Tracy puts her whole heart into her work. She strives to be the best counselor that she can be on a daily basis. I am truly blessed to get the opportunity to work with someone like her and I am honored to be able to call her my friend. I appreciate her hard work and dedication to WestCare’s clients. She truly does uplift the human spirit!” – Jessie Alcorn, RMSC Job Coach, MLK Residential

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Recognizing the Efforts of Our Amazing Staff…

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Since early 2016, WestCare California’s Staff Recognition system has seen a complete overhaul. While we have given our Employee of the Month awards for years, we felt that we couldn’t thank our amazing employees enough for all that they do for those that we serve on a daily basis. In April, we launched our CORE (Characteristics Of Remarkable Employees) Awards that staff nominate for each other based upon that month’s character trait. In appreciation of all that our staff does, we would like to share a letter from one of our Directors regarding these awards:

“Good morning,

I wanted to take a minute to share a little snippet of Melissa Starks’ award presentation.

Melissa was presented with both the CORE Award for going “Above and Beyond” (April) and the Employee of the Month Award for May during the June 30th Completion Celebration,  in the presence of our WestCare team, participants and CDCR and DRP staff.

Of course this was a very special day as we celebrated the participants’ accomplishments and completion of some aspects of the Re-entry program and in doing so, encouraged and motivated those still on their journey.

Melissa was quite surprised to have been nominated AND awarded these recognitions and was very gracious in accepting both of them. She shared that it has been several years since she has received an acknowledgement of this type for her efforts, let alone two. She shared that these awards are the result of the teachers who helped to educate her as well as the participants that allow her to work with them. She graciously thanked her team and the participants she works with.

Sharing this in the community meeting was also very encouraging and motivating for the participants as they were able to see how the WestCare team works to encourage, support and uplift not only the participant but one another as well.

Megan Jesus, C.A.S., I.M.F.T, Program Director, WestCare California Re-Entry Hub at Folsom State Prison

 

Mental Health Matters in My Family

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I’ve never known a time when mental illness wasn’t a part of my family’s medical history or among our personal challenges. Three generations of my family have experienced mental health disorders including bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and clinical depression. My grandmother experienced what we now would recognize as early onset of her bipolar disorder at the same time she gave birth to her first child, my mother, in 1941. She suffered greatly as a result of the denial, aversion and derision she was subjected to by her own siblings and various family members after the onset of what was then called manic depression. My grandmother eventually became a single parent to 5 children after being abandoned by my grandfather. He refused to deal with a wife experiencing mental illness in a very profound way. The stigma surrounding mental illness was more than he was able or willing to live with. My grandmother was hospitalized several times during an era in which psychiatric conditions and care was obviously less advanced than it is today. It troubles me to know that my grandmother, who was among the people in my life that I cherished more than any other, suffered more than was needed as a result of the stigma surrounding her mental illness and particularly as a result of the lack of awareness on the part of those she loved.  The fact that she had to overcome stigma from her own family, people who in every other way I also cherish is difficult to resolve in my heart and in my minds-eye. I witnessed the survivor my grandmother was as she lived a very long life filled with many more challenges. She lived, she loved and she and her children flourished.

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Fortunately, in my lifetime the stigma often attached to mental illness has been greatly reduced. I never felt a stigma resulting from my own depression or anxiety disorders though certainly I can relate to other stigmas. My younger brother experienced extreme psychosis and a hospitalization in 1992 as a result of an early adult onset and diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 1992. He was 23 in the midst of completing his master’s degree. Certainly he faced upset and challenges, but he was fortunate to not have to deal with many barriers resulting from stigma. He had extremely supportive friends and family, received excellent care and he is amazingly resilient. He is successful in his desired profession and relationships. I, too, am successful in managing anxiety and depression and recognize that mental health, like addiction and being overweight are simply a part of the many things in my life that further shape who I am and that require attention and self-care. There is no shame in my game and I don’t let mental health disorders define me.

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Self-awareness and self-care occur when we are able to remove stigma from our lives. Still, words have so much power and a lack of understanding from those around us can have such long-lasting effects.  Internalizing negative messages from others negatively impacts those who may yet flourish and do so more quickly if they were not encountering unnecessary barriers. As someone currently working with mental health consumers and their families, I see others as they experience mental illness. I’m extremely proud to assist them in their stabilization and recovery process and to be afforded that opportunity through an agency that strives to uplift the human spirit in everything they do. As we recognize Mental Health Matters Month, perhaps the greatest thing we can do is to work to reduce stigma and increase awareness of both mental illness and mental health. Are you aware that numerous published studies report that 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that 50% of us will experience at least one mental illness in our lifetimes? Such numbers require of us that we embrace and support our community, empower by encouraging self-acceptance and greater self-care. We can confront and rebuke stigma. We still have a very long way to go in advancing greater gains in the mental health movement. We can start by taking a simple pledge to reduce stigma in ourselves, our families and within our community.

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– submitted by Mark Leanhart 
2409a891180b9bb4d77398336e9b3761.pngFor over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents, and families.

A letter of thanks to our troops!

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The Men from our Residential Treatment Facility – WestCare California MLK, wrote letters of gratitude to the service members overseas. Our SSVF Outreach Specialist, Raymond Gonzales of San Joaquin Valley Veterans will be sending them off to Operation Gratitude. A special thank you goes out to our M2M (Men to Men) Counselor, Vincent Monk of WestCare MLK for helping the residents with this project!

From all of us here at the WestCare family to all of you wonderful men and women who are a part of our great Armed Forces, God bless you and your families and Happy Holidays.

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wc-branding_CAFor over 40 years, WestCare California has been providing an opportunity for individuals to lead fuller, richer lives. Our team of multi-cultural, experienced and credentialed staff is dedicated to providing the best care to everyone who enters our doors. Our goal is to uplift the human spirit by providing the skills and support necessary for individuals to achieve their dreams and transform their lives.

WestCare provides a wide spectrum of health and human services in both residential and outpatient environments. Our service domains include mental health & wellness, substance abuse and addiction treatment, housing opportunities, education & prevention, criminal justice and veterans programs. These services are available to adults, children, adolescents, and families.

“Welcome Home” by Erin Shelton, WestCare California – Housing Opportunities

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Crystal J.

“Welcome Home”

“Crystal was brought to MAP Point by Tasha Marin at Fresno EOC. Fresno EOC paid for a hotel stay for Crystal and her six year old niece, whom she legally adopted because her mother could no longer care for her. Crystal had been out of work for a long period of time and was just trying to make a better life for her and her niece. Sara Rios of WestCare California was Crystal’s point of contact at MAP Point. Sara scheduled an intake with the ESG program and that’s where i stepped in to help the ESG case managers and completed the intake process for them! Crystal was a very special case because she was handed over to the amazing team (Tasha Marin and Sara Rios). With that being said, Crystal secured housing and came to MAP Point document ready. All that Crystal needed was a little help by caring people and assistance with a deposit. We were able to sign documents with the apartment complex the very next day and move her in that same day! Crystal was so excited, as you can see by the gorgeous smile on her face. She is settling into her new apartment and is so very grateful for the amazing work that the team has done for her and her niece.”

– Erin Shelton, Case Manager, Housing Opportunities

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WestCare California focuses on providing critical and quality services to assist individuals and/or families to quickly regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis or homelessness. Programs such as Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Project LiftOFF provide housing and address the multiple needs of homeless adults & their children. WestCare uses the Housing First Model which has proven that homeless and at-risk individuals are more responsive to interventions and social services support after they are housed, rather than as a precondition of housing.

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Multi-Agency Access Program (MAP) is an integrated intake process which connects individuals facing housing, substance abuse, physical health, or mental illness challenges to supportive services matching individuals and families to the right resources at the right time. This is accomplished through an established and formalized collaboration of service providers, leveraging existing community resources, eliminating barriers and assisting consumer’s access supportive services.

From Erin Shelton, WestCare California, Inc. – Housing Opportunities

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We would like to thank Erin Shelton from WestCare California. Inc. Housing Opportunities for her submissions to the blog this week! The pictures and quotes are beautiful.

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Give Up The Nickname – Burnett Irons, Counselor

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Burnett Irons, Counselor

 

I often like to use a frame of thought that has helped me grow, personally, as well as distance myself from my old behaviors. This revolves around the names we go by. We have our birth name which is linked to our own true identity. We have our nick name, which is an endearment that we’re referred to with by family and close friends.

Then, some of us have what I call a “Street name”. This name is linked to a mindset and lifestyle that is drastically different than our true identity, but we will live out this name with a certain sense of character when entangled in a street lifestyle.

My legal name is Burnett Anderson Irons, but on the street, I was known as “Barnett” and nothing more. “Barnett” was the character that I created and portrayed during that phase of 26 years of living the street life.

A person can reform and leave behind their old ways, but their “Street name” will always follow them. I have learned that the best way to cut ties with this reminder of your past is to go by two steps. The first and easiest step is to never refer to yourself by this name; that is not who you are now. The second step is to never respond to this name if you come in contact to old friends or associates from your street life. Politely acknowledge the person and let them know that this part of you is gone, that you do not go by that name anymore and you do not want to be referred to by that name.

Some people might have trouble accepting the fact that you have changed and abandoned this persona, while others will be accepting and supportive. However, you must stay diligent and continue to remind yourself who you are now, not who you were then.