The pathway of recovery from chronic mental illness and substance use is rarely linear. According to Jared Powell, LCSW at First Step House, some individuals are too unstable to tolerate and benefit from the intensity and restrictions of comprehensive substance use treatment. To reduce the overuse of high-cost, overburdened services such as emergency shelters, emergency rooms, and jails, Powell has been working to provide help that is flexible and readily available. For cases where the patient may be suffering from severe mental illness, Powell will conduct an informal assessment and then he and his team will decide what type of treatment to recommend (i.e. residential, outpatient comprehensive or alternative non-comprehensive options that fit what they can tolerate).
“I want to serve these underserved populations, and the financial help from the Behavioral Health Workforce Reinvestment Initiative provides some relief that makes it more realistic for me to stay.” Powell is an award recipient of this initiative, and gave up his law career in favor of connecting underserved patients in Utah to treatment.
Powell recalls one patient who attended one of the neurodynamic mindfulness groups that he facilitates. The patient was experiencing homelessness, had a history of trauma growing up, and was struggling with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. He had difficulty holding a job, and had reported having attempted suicide 3 times.
Powell, with the help of a peer support specialist, advocated to get this patient sheltered and provide transportation to treatment. After about 6 months, this patient dropped out of treatment, but not because of something tragic—it was because of progress. The patient had moved to a nearby town, began working at a fast food restaurant, and had started going to school.
“There are few careers where you are required to become a better person, and that’s one of the benefits of entering into the mental health field.”-Jared Powell
First Step House has evolved into a co-occurring capable, behavioral health treatment and housing provider. We believe that an essential element to building healthy and resilient lives is to provide people with the necessary tools to achieve long-term stability. Our Vision is to serve 5,000 people per year by 2028 using the highest-quality supportive services possible.