In many cultures, the iris flower is associated with the idea of resilience and strength. According to Iris Home Program Director Daniella Ramos, the iris is a fitting name for CHD’s newest intensive residential rehabilitation home for men in Connecticut. “We believe the iris is a symbol of recovery,” she said.
At the seven-bed Iris Home, which has been operating for six months in New Hartford, CT, recovery means improving life for residents who have dual diagnoses of both mental illness and substance use disorder.
The goal of Iris Home is to provide a safe, affirming space where residents can continue to learn skills and develop as individuals while having therapeutic support from staff. Ramos said her overarching goal is to cultivate an environment where individuals with a history of mental illness or addiction can not only find refuge but also flourish in their journey towards recovery and personal growth. “I aim to create a program that goes beyond the conventional notion of support by fostering a consistent, thoughtful living space that recognizes and nurtures the unique interests and strengths of each resident,” she said.
Ramos envisions Iris Home as a haven where individuals have a profound sense of belonging, ultimately establishing it as their home. “Through tailored programs, therapeutic interventions, and community engagement, I aspire to empower residents to overcome the challenges associated with mental illness or addiction. The goal is not merely survival, but to thrive, to lead fulfilling lives that reflect their individual potential and aspirations. To achieve this vision, I work collaboratively with a dedicated team to implement evidence-based practices, innovative therapies, and holistic approaches.”
Because some of the residents at the Iris Home have been institutionalized for years, they have experienced much social isolation in their lives. “We want to change that mindset with them, to get them out of their rooms,” said Ramos. “We don’t want them to have idle time in our program, because, from my experience in my career, idle time often leads to an incident report.”
Ramos’ favorite part of her job: “Building a team,” she said without hesitation. “Also, it’s great to see the residents transition from the hospital into our program and enjoy a better quality of life that we are able to provide in a home setting. Through our clinical treatment model and our intervention, our goal is to get them to a place where they are community-ready.”
Ramos earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Southern Connecticut State University and her master’s degree in human services, with a concentration in clinical counseling, at Post University in Waterbury, CT. Before joining CHD, she was a social worker for the state of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) for 12 years. While she was at DCF, she was also a part-time behavior technician at All Pointe Care in Cheshire, CT, working with a girl who has autism. In fact, Ramos’ foster son is autistic, and her mother has dementia, so she became a certified dementia practitioner. “Advocating for people with mental illness has always been a strong passion of mine,” she said.
Iris Home is still young and still developing—Ramos plans on converting an extra room into a home gym because of the psychological benefits of physical fitness, and she wants to introduce pet therapy for residents. “Our program manager, Sarah Pelligrinelli, is also a recreational therapist, so we’re building a robust recreational therapy calendar,” she said. “We’re really excited about that.”