Rocker’s Mission: Helping The Mentally Ill Find Their Song

Dozens of Connecticut’s most at-risk mental health patients have added a new tool to their treatment plans – songwriting – thanks to an unusual partnership between a New York-based singer and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Over the past two years, singer-songwriter Mary McBride and her bandmates have worked with 36 young adults who receive DMHAS services, according to DMHAS Communications Director Mary Kate Mason. McBride hosts songwriting workshops with participants in DMHAS’ Young Adult Services. The songwriting process gives participants a creative outlet and a chance to be heard, she said. “It allows them to do what they do really well,” she said.

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Troubled Veterans Get Treatment, Not Jail

Two programs that connect arrested veterans to treatment – rather than jail – report that many are getting their lives back on track. Some 81 percent of veterans in the program run by the Veterans Health Administration have not been arrested again. And one run by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services shows a 36 percent drop in illegal drug use among its veterans and a 44 percent decrease in symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “So many people are getting what they really need, which is treatment and not incarceration,” said Laurie Harkness, the VA program director. “It’s making such a difference in so many veterans’ lives.”

The programs, designed to help veterans with mental health and substance abuse problems, operate in courts statewide, where social workers reach out to arrested veterans to let them know about treatment options for PTSD, anger management, and addictions, among other illnesses.

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