Recently, a very close friend of our family passed away. Though I miss her terribly, she lived a good, long life and her sunny outlook touched so many people. As I thought about the happy times we had shared, I realized that the care and support we had given her had helped her to remain independent and live on her own, even as she grew old. She was a neighbor and my family just did what good neighbors do. She was also more than helpful to me and our children. I remember many a day calling her in a panic because I was leaving work later than I should have and was going to miss the bus. Nothing worse than the parent “walk of shame” into school to retrieve your children who were brought back to school because there wasn’t a parent or caring adult there to greet them. I would simply call and off she’d run to the bus stop to make sure that our children were not only safe, but had a warm hug, an endearing conversation and usually a snack with a cold glass of milk at the end of their school day. As she aged, the calls from across the street became more frequent: jars that needed opening, unfamiliar sounds in the night and a friendly “check in” to break up the day. In her final days of life she had limited ability to leave the house so those calls brought us both moments of laughter.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate to have a natural support system of family, friends or neighbors in their lives, but access to the right kinds and levels of support can enable people, especially those facing mental health challenges, to live as independently as they can.
Services to help people facing mental health challenges to live as independently as possible can be provided through a state-funded program of Community Based Flexible Supports. As the name implies, Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) are both community based and flexible enough to address individual needs. CBFS include services such as:
- Individual counseling and symptom management
- Group therapy
- Medication administration and monitoring
- Substance abuse counseling
- Help to pay bills, manage money and gain financial independence
- Assistance in activities of daily living (ADLs) such as food shopping and doing laundry
- Access to employment and vocational training
Eligibility to enter CBFS is made by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and all services are referral-based. Given that DMH funds CBSF services, they select and contract with qualified providers, including CHD, to manage the delivery of those services appropriately. DMH conducts ongoing oversight to ensure that services consistently meet program requirements and individual needs.
“People facing mental health challenges have periods of wellness and periods of stress in their life,” explains my colleague Katherine M. Cook, LICSW, Vice President Adult Mental Health/Substance Use for CHD. “Through CBFS, services are provided to people based on where they are on that continuum. Among the CBFS services provided by CHD is supported housing in non-institutional, community settings.”
For example, CHD collaborates with the Chicopee Housing Authority in the Intensive Supported Apartment Program. People receiving services live in a cluster of apartments and are seen by support staff every day. In this setting many people can be successful without the need for elevated services in institutional settings. And that’s good, because who wants to live in an institution when they can live at home?
“CBFS helps give people considerable independence along with structure and professional guidance that helps them become and remain stable,” said Cook. “CHD currently provides Community Based Flexible Supports to 837 people living with mental health challenges or lived experience. Of those people, about 123 live in one of 25 licensed group residences where they can receive services and contribute to their community.”
My neighbor did not have mental health challenges, but our relationship and her passing had given me pause as I thought about how important that support to her was, and how important the supports we give to people in our community through CBFS is. Sometimes, what a person needs most of all is a good neighbor. I sure had one. And I miss her.
If you would like to learn more about CHD’s CBFS program, pay CHD.org a visit or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.