Founder’s Society: Founders learn about mental health treatment at St. Francis House

Members of the Founder’s Society got an inside look at St. Francis House’s approach to treating clients suffering from major psychiatric illness at a June event. St. Francis House Psychiatrist Nina Calabresi, MD, and Manager of Mental Health Services Tim Bulla began by talking about the complexity of their clients — many of whom suffer from mental and medical illnesses, substance abuse, and severe trauma histories. They attributed their many patient successes to a number of factors:

• Thanks to philanthropy and other funding sources, SFH clinicians are able to see clients over an extended period of time, which is vital because of how long it takes some patients to form trusting relationships. Wait times for initial appointments are also much shorter than at other clinics.

• It takes a village to care for these guests, so in addition to an interdisciplinary primary treatment team, St. Francis House uses a whole health approach, where other staff and volunteers form therapeutic relationships with the patient as well. When clients go missing and have behavioral issues, everyone is on the lookout. “We have eyes everywhere,” said Dr. Calabresi.

• Clinicians understand the many obstacles that make clients reluctant to seek treatment. Bulla described an exercise he was required to do in a social work graduate school where he had to go to a public place and ask a passerby for money. “It helped me understand how difficult it is for many people to come to this building and ask for help,” he said.
Both Bulla and Dr. Calabresi talked about specific patients who cycled in and out of treatment for years, but finally ended up housed and healthy. “If you hang in there with them and build trusting relationships, good things can happen,” said Bulla. The Founder’s Society comprises supporters who donate at least $1,000 during a single fiscal year. (July 1- June 30)