How an NH mental health worker’s lived experience informs their expertise in a Manchester program
Two small state-funded mental health programs, one in Manchester and the other in Northwood, reopened a month ago after both programs ended. closed due to lack of staff.
Intensify Lower is a transition program staffed 24/7 by people who use their lived experience of mental health issues to support their clients. Short-term residents can “step up” the program while managing mental health issues, or “opt out” of an intensive care setting such as a psychiatric hospital. This is part of the state’s efforts to improve mental health care and reduce the acuteness of the crisis in New Hampshire emergency rooms.
The Manchester program has found five new staff members for its team of nine, and the Northwood program is still recruiting for several part-time positions. These locations are two of four in New Hampshire.
Jesse is one of Manchester’s new signings. NHPR does not use his last name to protect his privacy. Like the majority of new program staff, this is the Concord resident’s first time working in the field of mental health.
Jesse said he learned about the program through his therapist.
“She wanted me to try something different, where I could use my experience in battling mental health with other people,” he said.
Step Up Step Down the type of program that Jesse wished he had.
“It’s so easy, sometimes, to be rushed to the hospital instead of having a place where you can calm down and pull yourself together with people who understand you,” he said. “I wish when I had my depression that they had a program like this.”
But the demand for the program is significantly higher than the state’s four programs can handle. Programs receive referrals from hospitals, mental health centers, and local residents who refer themselves. There are only 12 locations in the entire state. The shortages mean the four programs have to make tough decisions about who to serve.
“There are only a limited number of slot machines and it’s stressful,” said Kali Moulton, who oversees the Northwood Step Up Step Down.
The weight of decision making led her to review the process. More staff are now actively participating in the interview process in the hope that the diversity of staff experiences and backgrounds can make the process fairer for potential participants.
Now a fifth program is trying to open in Rochester, but they’ve run into zoning issues.