Lara Clayton, Manzanita House Program Director, looks forward to coming to work every day! People who come to Manzanita, are experiencing a mental health crisis. The job doesn’t lend itself to routine. Planning a schedule takes a backseat to the immediate needs of the clients, making every day different.
Manzanita House is Interim’s short-term (up to 30 day) crisis residential program. The program serves people who are in crisis, but don’t really need recovery in an institutional environment like an inpatient unit in a hospital. How does Manzanita compare with a hospital environment in terms of recovery? Lara says hospitals will normally discharge someone the moment the behaviors or thoughts that brought them to the hospital stop. People are usually still very fragile at this point. If they aren’t given extended support and learning skills to cope with their symptoms, the behavior or thoughts will most likely return. In this way, Manzanita doesn’t just help people recover from their episode, but also helps clients prevent future hospitalizations.
Strength-based treatment plans are co-created by staff and residents, and residents take an active role in their recovery. The program model attempts to restore an individual’s ability for independent living, socialization and effective life-management. The day program works on developing skills to cope with mental illness for whole-person wellness, including managing symptoms, stress and anger, health, nutrition, hygiene and drug and alcohol education. Throughout their stay, clients are encouraged to learn about the effective use of medications to manage their mental illness. Meanwhile, clients also benefit from a shared home-like environment, where they participate in daily chores and routines, as well as individual and group counseling.
When asked what a typical client coming into the program looked like, Lara says there is no ‘typical’ client. About 25% have schizophrenia, 25% have schizoaffective disorder, 30% have bipolar disorder. The remaining 20% have psychotic disorder or major depressive disorder. The reasons a crisis is triggered vary. A stressful life event may have occurred. In some, psychosis is triggered by the use of drugs. If the client is young, they may not have the skills yet to manage their illness and are experiencing their first crisis.
Lara says Manzanita has a really cohesive community and the staff provide excellent care. She attributes this to their dedication and skill in serving the clients.
In March, Lara will have served as Manzanita’s Program Director for three years. Before that she was the Program Director for Interim’s Sandy Shores and Shelter Cove, transitional and permanent housing, programs in Marina, for four years.
Lara credits Barbara Mitchell, the Executive Director, with recruiting her out of a Collaborative Human Services Course at CSUMB she was instructing. “When I was little I wanted to be a psychiatrist.” But meeting Barbara made her want to work for Interim.