Speaker 1: You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle, and recorded at the studios of Maine magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and Editor in Chief of Maine, Maine Home and Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at lovemaineradio.com.
Dr. Belisle: This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio, show number 342, airing for the first time on April 8th 2018. Today we speak with Quincy Hentzel, the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Paul Golding and Alexandra Sagov, of Family Hope, a mental health resource agency located in Scarborough. Thank you for joining us.
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Dr. Belisle: Quincy Hentzel has been the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce since July of 2017. Thanks for coming in today.
Quincy Hentzel: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Belisle: You’ve been in Maine for, we decided I think, 15 years.
Quincy Hentzel: 15 years. Yes.
Dr. Belisle: Yeah. But you’re not from Maine originally.
Quincy Hentzel: I’m not. I grew up outside of Chicago, in the suburbs, spent my whole childhood there, did college, did law school, and moved to Maine … I think we just decided … 2003.
Dr. Belisle: You followed a boy here-
Quincy Hentzel: I did.
Dr. Belisle: … is what you told me.
Quincy Hentzel: I did. I followed a boy here who was also not from Maine but had gotten a job out here. And we thought that we were gonna stay for just a few years and then move back to Chicago. And we both fell in love with Maine. We’re both still here. We’re not still together, but we’re both still here. And I just love, love the city of Portland, love the state of Maine, and have made this my home.
Dr. Belisle: You had an interesting detour between Chicago and Maine. You actually were in DC for quite a while.
Quincy Hentzel: Well, I worked in DC, so my time in DC was while I was living in Portland, so when I moved to Portland, the very first job that I got was doing government relations work and lobbying work. And that job took me to Augusta and also to Washington DC, so I was always living in Portland but traveled quite a bit to Washington.
Dr. Belisle: When you were in school, did you know that you wanted to do lobbying work?
Quincy Hentzel: No, I think lobbying work is one of those jobs that you don’t really know exists. I mean, there’s so many of those jobs out there. I think people know doctor, and lawyer, and accountant. And I really didn’t know what lobbying was. Actually, the very first opportunity I was given to lobby, I had taken a temporary job at a law firm in Portland. And one of the attorneys there asked if I would be interested in lobbying. And the first thing I said was yes. And then the second thing I said was what’s lobbying? And that’s kind of what started my professional career in the area of government relations.
Dr. Belisle: So define lobbying for us then.
Quincy Hentzel: So how I define lobbying is actually is being an advocate, so I spent my first 11 years in Portland, I spent lobbying for the Maine credit unions. So I was essentially an industry advocate for credit unions. And I represented the credit unions, both in Augusta, in our State House, as well as Washington DC. I worked on policy issues that would impact credit unions, which is essentially anything in the financial services realm and worked with lawmakers, to ensure that the laws, and the rules, and the regulations that they passed were actually gonna be helpful to our industry and not hurtful to our industry.
Dr. Belisle: That’s a long time to spend on something like credit unions. Did you have an interest in the financial field before you started doing that?
Quincy Hentzel: I did not have a particular interest in the financial field. I think, what happened, not so dissimilar to me moving to Maine, is I really fell in love with the credit unions. I fell in love with the credit union movement and the people who make up the credit unions. Maine is a very heavy credit union state. We have a lot of wonderful banks, as well, and we have a lot of wonderful credit unions. There seems to be plenty of room for both in the market. And I just really fell in love with the people. And I enjoyed my time there, so yeah, I think I probably stayed in that job a lot longer than I ever thought that I would, but you blink your eyes, and all of a sudden, 11 years has passed.
Dr. Belisle: So what is it about credit unions, in particular, that you found so fascinating?
Quincy Hentzel: I think it was just the people. I think credit unions are non-profit financial institutions. And I just really felt a connection to and a passion to their work. Their motto is people helping people. And that’s just something that I’ve found, over the course of my own life, as something that I’m very passionate about, as well, so it was really kind of neat to be able to work for a financial institution, that really had the same values that I have and just the people, you can imagine the people who work in an institution or in a movement, like the credit union movement, are people that I wanted to spend my time with and I wanted to be connected with. So it was really easy for me to end up spending over a decade, my first job, which is probably pretty rare, to stay at your first job that long. But I did, and I really enjoyed every second of it.
Dr. Belisle: Why did you decided to go to law school in the first place?
Quincy Hentzel: So I essentially went to law school, because my dad was a lawyer as well, and I know that’s probably not the best reason to spend ungodly sums of money to go to graduate school and to get a JD, but I don’t regret going to law school. I love school, and I would be a perpetual student if I could afford it. I’ve never really practiced law, so I guess that goes to the point that maybe it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but it was the path that I went down, and honestly, it was the path that led me to where I am today.
Dr. Belisle: What did you like to do when you were younger, when you were in school?
Quincy Hentzel: In terms of just fun activities or subject matters?
Dr. Belisle: Yeah, well when you were in high school, what was it that was most interesting to you?
Quincy Hentzel: That’s a really good question. You’re gonna bring me back, bring me back a few years. I always really enjoyed politics. I think high school was when I started to really pay attention to the news and pay attention to what was happening in DC and pay attention to the President. So I think I always had an interest in politics and in policy. And I think it was the policy piece that maybe led me down the path of yeah, law school may be a good decision to do that, because everyone always says, you can do so many things with a law degree. I think that is very true, and I never thought that I would actually work in policy though, which is really interesting. I actually thought I would go into corporate law. And I don’t know exactly why I felt that way, but in college and in law school, I was like, I think I could see myself in a big corporation practicing law, which now I find that actually comical, because I don’t see myself doing that at all.
Dr. Belisle: Was your father a corporate attorney?
Quincy Hentzel: He was a corporate attorney, which there you go. Now we’re piecing it all together. He was a corporate attorney, so he was a corporate attorney for US Steel, in Chicago, for many, many years. That was his background, and again, I think I just kind of thought so highly of my dad, and knew what his career path was and what his profession was, and just really saw myself following in his same footsteps.
Dr. Belisle: I think what you’re describing is not that unusual. I mean, my father was a doctor, and I became a doctor. And he was a family practice doctor, so I got training in family medicine, and I still practice family medicine. But it is interesting that he and I are different people, so he and I have different ways of approaching the world in general, but when you’re young, you don’t really know. You don’t know how different you are from your parent. You assume that if you do what they do, then you’ll have the success that they have, right?
Quincy Hentzel: Exactly.
Dr. Belisle: But now you are working with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, so tell me about that.
Quincy Hentzel: So that’s been a really great opportunity. I stepped into that role at the Portland Regional Chamber, in February, as Interim CEO, and I held that position for a few months and then was named permanent CEO in July of last year. And it’s been such a fun and eye opening experience. I’ve been closely connected to the Chamber for a long time. I served on the board of the Portland Chamber for probably nine years before I took over this role. So I was not a stranger to the Chamber or the Chamber community. But it is a drastically different thing to serve on a board of directors as opposed to actually run an organization.
Dr. Belisle: How many people are in your organization?
Quincy Hentzel: So in terms of staff, there’s only six of us. But in terms of members, we have over 1300 member organizations that are part of the Chamber.
Dr. Belisle: So describe your day-to-day activities.
Quincy Hentzel: Wow. I think that’s one of the aspects of my job that I love the most is that it’s so different every day. Yesterday, I actually didn’t leave the office once, which is really rare, but I had a pretty calm day at my desk. I was able to get some work done. I had a few meetings in the office. We had a staff meeting. We’re kind of all back from the holidays, so I kind of purposely gave myself a slow ramp-up day. But my days can be all over the place. Tomorrow, my day will start at 7:00 in the morning. I will be at the Holiday Inn by the Bay for Eggs and Issues, which is our monthly breakfast series that we have. And then from there, I think I have a litany of meetings, whether I’m meeting with a member of my board, whether I’m meeting with a member of our organization. I could be meeting with the City Manager about an issue. I could be meeting with a city counselor about an issues. Maybe there’s a stakeholder group that’s pulled together to talk about the opioid epidemic in our city. Maybe we’re talking about regional transportation issues.
I think one of the things I’ve learned … I knew this, serving on the board, but having stepped into this role, I’ve realized the reach of a chamber of commerce. When part of your mission is to promote regional prosperity, that encompasses a lot of things. And so I think by virtue of that I get the opportunity to talk about and to be engaged in a lot of the critical and really important conversations that are taking place. And those conversations lead me, so hence, I’m going back to your first question of what’s your day look like. It’s different every single day, and it’s exciting every single day. And I feel like I am helping the Chamber of Commerce in Portland have a role in helping to shape our community.
Dr. Belisle: You’ve mentioned the opioid epidemic, just for example, and regional transportation. Are those two of the big issues that you’re working with right now?
Quincy Hentzel: They’re two of the issues. If I had to prioritize the issues that we’re working on, those would probably be in our top 10 list. Our list is long, long and mighty, but those are two that are really important to our members. I think the opioid crisis, again, that’s been something that I’ve been very acutely aware of, even before I took on this role. Now that I’m in this role, I think I’ve become just extremely aware of the prevalence of that issue and the impact that it has on our members. And we see it, too, every day. Our office is on Congress Street, Congress and Elm. We’re right by the library. You can see the crisis on the streets, and it’s really heartbreaking to see that. And you can see the impact that has on businesses, whether it’s a business that happens to be, maybe, in that are of town, where there’s a lot of activity on the streets or whether it’s a business that has employees or staff that are struggling with an opioid addiction, or maybe they have a family member who has. I just think, in my last few months here, that issue has really risen to the top of our list of one that I don’t think anybody can escape the opioid crisis.
I think it touches everybody in some capacity, some much more deeply and much more personally than others. But it is there. It is real. It is getting worse. I mentioned Eggs and Issues a few minutes ago. In December of 2015, we had the Police Chief. Chief Sauschuck presented Eggs and Issues. And he talked about the opioid crisis. And it was one of the first times that the business community had had this conversation. That was in December of 2015. And it’s not gotten better. And it’s gotten worse. And that’s heartbreaking too. I think everyone’s just struggling to figure out what’s the answer to that issue.
Dr. Belisle: What are some of the other issues that have risen to the top for you?
Quincy Hentzel: So one of the big challenged that the Chamber is trying to tackle right now is just the level of growth that Portland is having right now. And I think part of it is actual growth. We are growing. We are building. I know we’re sitting in a new building right now on Middle Street. There’s been a lot of development. People are attracted to Portland. Portland’s kind of made the world stage. People know about Portland, so we have tourism’s up. And you’ve got people of all ages who are moving to the city. And from the Chamber’s perspective, that’s great. We want to see a really vibrant community. We want to see a robust economy. We want more businesses for our businesses here to serve and more consumers for our businesses to serve, as well, so we want to see that growth.
But there are people … And I understand this … that are seeing that growth and that are getting really scared and that don’t know what this growth is going to mean for them. And they know change is coming. Change is here, and there’s more change coming. And they don’t see what’s on the other side of that change. And I can appreciate that. I think change is hard for everybody in so many different aspects of our life. But I think that’s the point where we’re at right now with the business community, really wanting to see our community to grow and then having a whole other sect of our community that’s pushing back on that growth and who is just scared for what that growth means. And that’s been showing itself. We had an election last November, where Portland had two really critical and extremely devastating referendum questions on the ballot. One was dealing with rent control. One was dealing with changing the way we do zoning. Both were citizen initiated referendums. And those were initiated really from a place of fear, fear of change, and fear of rents being too high, and people thinking that perhaps rent control might help the fact that rents are too high.
And so those are issues that we’re faced with at the Chamber and that we’re trying to figure out how to deal with. We opposed both of those referendums. Both of them lost. The zoning referendum did not lose by the largest of margins, which is really interesting and scary to us. But it’s just a real time and a place right now in Portland and trying to figure out how do we balance the new development, and the new condos going up, and then new development happening on the waterfront, which is wonderful but also very different from what people were used to. There’s now a moratorium on Munjoy Hill, because people feel really nervous and scared about the demolitions that are happening and the new buildings that are going up, so we’re in this place of change, and I think, with change, comes huge opportunity. I think we will definitely get through this. I don’t worry about getting through it. But we’re trying to help have a community-wide conversation with all parties about what this change is. And can we get to the other side while maintaining all the things that we love about Portland and Portland’s authenticity, but also being able to support more business and to build more housing?
How do we get there? We’re gonna get there somehow, we hope. But how do we get there, and how do we bring everybody along to get us there?
Dr. Belisle: Given that you describe yourself as a potentially perpetual student, this must be a really interesting opportunity for you, because you’ve had the chance to learn about lots of different areas, like the opioid crisis, and housing, and credit unions. Do you feel yourself continually challenged?
Quincy Hentzel: Yes, I do. I do. I have a hard time seeing this position not challenging me at some point in the future. Maybe we’ll get there, but there’s so many issues to be tackled. And there’s always new issues coming onto the horizon. So yes, I feel like I’m constantly in a place where I’m learning something new. I’m kind of bringing myself up to speed. I’m figuring out how have we done it before? Where do we wanna go with it? How do other cities deal with it? We’re not the only city that’s grappling with these issues, so trying to help and be a part of finding the solutions. So yes, I feel like I am a perpetual student in this role, and every day, I’m tackling a new issue. And I go home, most days, and I’m like, wow, I have a pretty amazing job. It’s just very cool to be able to have a role where my primary goal is to help build and support a vibrant Portland and a vibrant Portland region.
Dr. Belisle: You live in Cape Elizabeth now.
Quincy Hentzel: I do.
Dr. Belisle: It sounds like you put a lot of time in at work, because it sounds like a pretty big job.
Quincy Hentzel: Yes.
Dr. Belisle: But when you’re not doing that, what do you like to do?
Quincy Hentzel: That’s a very good question. I have struggled, as of late, to find time for myself, because it is. We’re trying to take on a lot. We’re tackling a lot. So there is a lot of work to be done, but when I’m not working, I’m trying really hard to read, not for work. I have a lot of reading that I do as part of this position, but I’m really trying to find time to read. I do love to read. I don’t often have the time to do it, so trying to carve out the time and trying to be outside more, especially in the winter. I don’t ski, which has been challenging. Everyone tells me every single winter, you’ve gotta start skiing, because it’s really a great way to embrace the winter. But I think I’ve passed that phase in my life. I’ve tried it a few years ago. It was not pretty to strap wood slats onto my feet and send me down a mountain, but still, trying to be outside more, and trying to just enjoy … I mean Cape Elizabeth, Portland, just to walk around, to walk around the trails, to head down by the lighthouse, take my poor dog for a walk, who I probably have not been giving my dog enough attention either, so I think just making time for myself.
Dr. Belisle: What are some of your favorite places in Maine?
Quincy Hentzel: Oh, that’s a tough question, because I think Maine is honestly, probably, the most beautiful place in the world, and I pinch myself driving to work those summer mornings over the bridge and just looking at the Bay and being like, I can not believe that I live here. I can’t believe I’m crossing this bridge. I live on one side. I work on the other side. But I would say probably my most favorite place and the place that I get to spend the most time is on Casco Bay. I love the Bay. We have a sailboat. Actually, we go back and forth between having a sailboat and not having a sailboat, but we love to be on the water. We have plenty of friends with boats, and that’s the best I’ve learned is if you’re not gonna have your own boat, it’s probably better to have a friend that has a boat.
But we also have a cottage out on Long Island, Maine, so we’re on the water a lot, whether on our own boat, friends’ boats, ferry boat. And I just find the Bay one of the most beautiful, beautiful places in all of Maine and particularly those early morning ferry boat rides, when we’re out on Long Island during the week, and we’re commuting into work in the morning. It’s pretty stunning. I used to do the rush hour commute in Chicago, which looks very different than the morning commute on Casco Bay.
Dr. Belisle: Yeah, it’s interesting, because we have had a lot more traffic in the last few years, leaving Portland. You probably notice on your side, going towards Cape but also going North.
Quincy Hentzel: Right.
Dr. Belisle: But then I’ve talked to other people, from California, who live outside of Los Angeles, and they’re like, you do not know traffic. This is traffic, but it’s not the way that it is elsewhere.
Quincy Hentzel: Right. Right. It’s all relative. I completely agree with that. I laugh sometimes, too, when people talk about the traffic at Portland, because you’re right. You could be stuck if you leave 15 minutes later than normal. Your commute has gone from 30 minutes to two hours, if you’re outside Chicago and other big cities. But it is all relative. And I think, for Portland, we’re a very small city, and traffic, it’s been creeping up there. And you do notice it, and if you’re driving to work, in the morning rush hour or the evening rush hour, I mean, there are a lot more cars on the road. I think that’s part of what I had mentioned, transportation issues, before, as one of our priorities at the chamber. And I think that’s something a lot of people are looking at. I mean, I know the city of Portland is looking at that too. How do we manage the traffic? How do we provide alternatives to people? Are there alternatives to driving a car?
There’s a lot of people moving to Portland who don’t wanna own a car. So to be able to provide them with other ways and other means to get to work, whether it’s people are on their bikes. There’s buses, perhaps different bus routes. Parking is always an issue, and I don’t know if the solution’s necessarily more parking, because then you just have more traffic. I mean, we do need a certain level of parking. You’re always gonna have those people who drive to work. I’m probably one of them. But giving people alternatives, and helping to mediate the amount of traffic that we see, and giving people other ways to get to and from work, I think is really important. And there are a lot of people, in groups, in organizations, that are really putting a lot of time, and effort, and energy into that right now.
Dr. Belisle: Yeah, and I don’t wanna diminish people’s observations about, I mean, if you’re not from Los Angeles. And it seems like there’s more traffic, that’s still a very legitimate thing.
Quincy Hentzel: Definitely.
Dr. Belisle: And we live in a city that really hasn’t been built for that. We haven’t been built for more cars. We haven’t been built for more cars leaving the city during … I’m still gonna call it rush hour. So how do we, I guess, retrofit? How do we figure that out?
Quincy Hentzel: Right.
Dr. Belisle: My last question is what has surprised you about yourself? If you were to go back, I don’t know, let’s say 20 years in your life and think about the person you were at that point. What has surprised you about who you’ve become?
Quincy Hentzel: Is a really good question. Gosh, thinking back to my 20 year old self, I think my level of resilience is much more than I ever thought. We all go through things in our life, and we all go through changes, and struggles, and challenges. And I feel like I’ve gone through a lot, probably not dissimilar from any people. You go through a lot of ups and downs. And I think I’m pretty pleasantly surprised at my resiliency. Sitting as a high school or a college student, where I had gone through nothing really difficult, or bad, or challenges, and to see what I’ve gone through up until today, I feel like I weathered it pretty well. And I consistently surprise myself, as to what I can get through. When you’re facing it head-on, you’re thinking, I’m never gonna survive this. I’m never gonna make it through this. And then you do make it through it. And you’re stronger. And you’re better. And you’ve learned a lot, so yeah, I think the resiliency piece. If I had to look back the last 20 years, I’ve weathered the storm okay.
Dr. Belisle: Is there any piece of advice that you would give yourself, if you were able to sit down and say, hey Quincy of the 20’s, this is what I’d like to tell you.
Quincy Hentzel: I would definitely say to be more confident. I think I’m fairly confident now, in my older age, but my 20 year old self, probably not so much. And I think confidence is just such a wonderful and important trait to have. I think confidence, it can get you through some really difficult situations. It helps to build trust in other people. And I probably was a lot less confident as my 20 year old stuff than I am right now. And that’s probably advice I would give any 20 year old person out there is just be confident. Carry yourself with confidence, and that will take you so far in life.
Dr. Belisle: I’ve been speaking with Quincy Hentzel, who has been the CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, since July of 2017. Thank you for all the good work you’re doing and for coming in today.
Quincy Hentzel: Thank you so much for having me. This was a lot of fun.
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Dr. Belisle: Paul Golding is the Executive Director of Family Hope, a mental health resource agency, located in Scarborough. He has served in a number of senior roles in the public health advocacy, higher education, and social services fields. Alexandra Sagov has a Masters in Social Work, and has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years. She has been with family hope since 2017. Thank you for coming in today.
Alex S.: Thank you for having us.
Paul Golding: Thanks for having us.
Dr. Belisle: Paul, I’ll start with you. You came to the United States in 1990, after getting your education and your early background in the United Kingdom. Why the United States?
Paul Golding: Why not? Let’s see. In 1989, I finished up a long-term contract in higher education, and I’ve worked doing a computer project for a library. And I was offered a chance to come to Seattle and set up a database for a biomedical research company. And so that gave me the opportunity to get a green card. But it took a little while, because bureaucracy. And by the time I got through all the necessary hoops, that startup company had gone under. But I got a green card out of the deal, and I went to the embassy. And they said, “Well, you got a green card. Find a job.” So it was a very different time. Anyway, so I took a job with the American Lung Association doing computer and database work, and then slowly evolved up the food chain to do marketing, development, and also some other roles, and then went into higher education with the University of Washington, Portland State, took a trip out to Boston looking for work, came up to Portland, fell in love with it, and have been here pretty much ever since.
So I took a job then with Day One, an adolescent substance abuse agency. I worked there for a while, then the Center for Grieving Children, then Stepping Stones. It used to be called Maine Adoption Placement Services, and most recently, landed at Family Hope, so yeah.
Dr. Belisle: How about you, Alexandra? You’re originally from the Boston area?
Alex S.: Yep, I grew up in Boston, and I came to Maine. My mother has had a summer home in Kennebunk for about, gosh, now it’s 37 years. And when she retired up here, I’m a single mom, and so my wonderful son and I came up here. And I spent a year as a volunteer in service to America with the United Way of York County. And that really gave me an idea of what I wanted to do, which was to be a social worker, both clinically and community oriented. So I went to the University of New England and got my Masters degree. And I’ve been here ever since.
Dr. Belisle: The work that you’re doing with Family Hope is very interesting and very necessary, also difficult. And the people that are coming in for services generally have complicated situations that you’re working with. So you’ve chosen to frame this as Family Hope. How are you able to continue to have that sense of hope in the midst of … Well, we’ll start with you Alexandra. Yeah?
Alex S.: I’ve always believed that, no matter how difficult a situation is and no matter how small you can move forward, it can always get better. The people who come to us are obviously in very difficult situations, but I find that even just having a place to come, to feel like you’re working with a seasoned clinician who really cares, right away, it makes them feel better. And my goal, when I’m working with people, is I don’t let them out the door unless they feel hopeful. And that’s really my goal. And in all the people that I’ve worked with, I’ve been overwhelmed by the gratitude and also the ability to make some changes, to connect people with services, to help them make difficult decisions, whether it’s with how they’re gonna structure their will, what they can and can’t control, and also if it’s about grieving, the child they wish they had versus the one they do. So it’s an extraordinary organization, and it’s a mental health service that has never existed in the history of mental health. And so it’s a concept that I think we’re presenting to society, that might take a while for people to actually grasp, that this can exist. So it’s very rewarding and exciting.
Paul Golding: Well, Alex tells exactly what we do. How we came into existence, our founder, Donna Betts, she went through this, as a parent of an adult. Her adult son was mentally ill, and she struggled to find the correct diagnosis for him, to get services in place, and because of the various challenges that we have, here in Maine, and we do it throughout the United States, in diagnosis, and accessing services, and working with adult onset mental illness, she found it extremely frustrating. And unfortunately, her son died to suicide. And so to try and make sense of that truly horrific situation, she founded Family Hope. And it was incorporated in 2012, and after five years at the helm, she stepped down and is now doing something else with her life. And so Alex and I represent, to some extent, the next wave of people and come in and pick it up.
It was an agency that was in good shape. We inherited it. And it had been in a testing and development stage. I mean, it was a strong program, and now, we feel like we’re the next wave of that, as we try to expand services, get the word out about who we are and what we do. And we’ve seen, I think, in the last year, we saw an eight-fold increase in the number of families that we serve, which of course, put pressure on us to find the funding, because we don’t charge for services, because we don’t need people who are struggling to navigate a poor city and services anyway, to then have to struggle to find the resources to access what we do.
So that’s how we came into existence, and so the next wave for us is to expand our board, expand our capacity to support the increase in services that we’re seeing, and try and break down the stigma associated with mental health, advocate for a greater understanding of it, work with families to navigate services, both for the identified patient … And the thing that Alex talks about, what is unique, I think, to Family Hope, is that we start by trying to address it on a family level. And the view that I say is if properly supported, families are then the natural supports of the mentally ill person, and if properly supported and educated, family members can not only not do the wrong thing when they’ve got someone but do the right thing.
And so the affected others, the families, they need the support, in order to best support their loved ones, because we’re dealing with a chronic situation. We’re not dealing with an acute illness, by and large. We’re dealing with people that have chronic mental health problems, so once that impacts a family system, it’s a permanent change, and families are very good at dealing with short-term crises. And they focus on the loved one. They may, in fact, get them services, and they begin to do better. But it’s impacted the family in a way that they now need support going forward. And so we are unique, in that sense, at least here in the States. It’s predicated on some good research that came out of Canada, and it’s embottled it. It waxes and wanes in Britain, depending on various government fundings for those kinds of services. But it’s the notion that we should support the family, not just the patient.
And so that means, of course, that every phone call is different. Every family situation is different. And one of the things that we’re trying to do at Family Hope, with the model that we inherited and the one that we’re developing is not to replicate the kinds of cultures that many social service agencies have, where the front-line staff get burned out. So you work closely with one family, from soup to nuts, and then move on. And we try not to have a heavy caseload, where you’re not doing very much for anyone. You’re just trying to keep things going for an hour a week, indefinitely. We try and work closely with the family until, as Alex says, suffering is reduced and relieved, and people feel hopeful.
And a lot of that is making referrals and suggestions, and connecting people to supports in the communities, and hearing back from whether that works or not, and then trying some other stuff, and then moving forward. So it’s intensive, but it’s not long-term. I mean, many of the social service agencies that we have here in town, they’ll open a client. And that client may be on their books for years, because great people are doing great work with them, but the family’s not being supported. They’re not getting connected to other resources. And so they’re moving them an inch at a time, and we’re trying to move people a mile very fast, I would say.
Dr. Belisle: I think about the need that we have in the state and really, across the country, maybe across the world. I just happen to know about our own state. And I wonder how possible it is to help people in this intensive way, in large numbers.
Alex S.: So one of the goals at Family Hope, what we’d eventually love, is to have this in every county. One of the unique ways in which we operate is they are welcome to come to the office and meet with us. I can meet them in the community. I can go to their homes. And I think one of the struggles and something that we wanna look at and would be great, if we could get funding, is to really be able to quantitatively and qualitatively be able to really document and tie it into how does this help, right? And so anecdotally, everybody that we talk to, I mean, not one person has ever said, oh that’s a terrible idea.
And so one of the things that Paul and I are looking at are, what are the barriers, right, that people are dealing with, that aren’t being addressed? And so when you have adults, and this is true I think in every state here, is that you have the right to be mentally ill. That’s a fact. And that’s often something that’s very painful for parents to recognize, that they don’t have any rights to information, to doctors, and so we have families who are literally help hostage for … I have one case … eight years, over 30, with probably the most serious case of OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I’ve ever seen, I mean really. And so one of the things that I was struggling to try to do, because he can’t leave the house, is how am I gonna get a clinician to come in and have eyes on him and perhaps even be able to medicate him enough, so that his anxiety decreases? He can then go out into the community and get Maine Care and get on an Act Team, which is an intensive outpatient treatment.
And so I did talk to some psychiatrists, and I said, okay, what would it take, right, to be able to get you into that house? And it was money, because these people don’t have insurance. They wouldn’t be able to bill for their time there, and then if they had to travel. And so what I said to them is, what if I got a grant that would actually pay you to do that? And would you also be willing to do it on a sliding scale? So these are the kinds of concepts, right, they’re not out there in any way, shape, or form. I’m very excited and also a little fearful that people won’t get the value of it. And what we’re asking, right, is for them to suspend disbelief, to invest in it, and then see what the results are. So that’s an example of how we’re looking to address barriers that haven’t been addressed before.
Paul Golding: And so I think, as Alex says, you use the data and the experience of your clients, to try and bring about systemic shift in thinking. Providers are there. When I go out and talk to case managers and clinicians about who we are and what we do, the phone rings off the hook. I make a presentation, and my phone is ringing as I leave the meeting, people trying to access that, because they, themselves, know that I have a family. If you could just spend a few hours with them, that would help my client tremendously. So there’s a lot of buy-in at the executive level, when I go out and make presentations to various providers around town. They get it. But the traction to bring those services in-house really comes from front-line staff, front-line staff who are working with the clients. So those are the people that we try and go and educate.
Now the challenge, of course, is the more the phones ring, the more expensive it gets. And so funding is always a challenge. We have a fundraiser next week at the West Inn, and we hope that people will come and enjoy the night. We write grants. We do appeals. We have a board doing all those things. So we’re just like every other non-profit, but our view, I think, in the long-run, is that we’ll be able to take the quantitative and qualitative experience that we have and translate that into policy and to try and get the Department of Health and Human Services, or other providers, to partner with us and to find ways to ultimately bring about that systemic change. And I think that’ll come. I have faith in that, because I worked at the Center for Grieving Children for many years. And that was a new idea. That idea came along for peer support for kids.
This center here in Portland was the third such one in the country. There’s now over 350 such centers around the country. There’s a National Alliance. I had the distinct honor of being the president of that for a while. And one of the things that we used to hear when we get together for conferences and stuff was that we needed big funding in order to make that happen. And the New York Life Foundation got behind bereavement. There’s an organization that makes a lot of money, and many of their employees were tired of going out and giving checks to founders after being a horrible loss and not knowing how to better help those families. So the New York Life Foundation got behind the National Alliance.
We’re looking for that kind of, both here in Maine and on the national scene, looking for someone, some industry partner perhaps, who sees that. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies can take a step back and say, look it’s not just medication. Medication’s an important part of this. If psychiatrists and psychologists can step back and say, it’s not just our corner, I mean, I think that will come. I think that will come in America. And then when it happens, it’ll happen fast, and it’ll happen big. But that’s a big part of what we’re doing. We’re just trying, right now, to replicate the Alex’s of the world in every county here in Maine. And so we don’t need millions of dollars to do that. We need thousands of dollars to do that. But we always have our eye on the fact that we have something that’s unique here. It’s eminently knowable, eminently replicable, easily trainable. So I think, from that point of view, it will come.
And it’s to Donna’s credit, our founder, that she put something together that has that potential. And now we’ve gotta put our foot on the gas, bring in more money, get more people, and it will catch fire. I mean, I genuinely believe that. We have a passionate board. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of need. So if we can do things differently and it works, the word will get around.
Alex S.: I think there are some natural partnerships that we’re actually having trouble solidifying. And I’m not exactly sure why. So for example, adult services at DHS, adult protective services, I spoke to somebody there. And she was, I can’t believe we don’t know about you. This would be a great fit. But yet the referrals haven’t come in. One of the things that I will do with a family, where there’s a potential for either violence or suicide is I will call Crisis with the family, and I will also call the local police department. And I’ll say, listen, I wanna give you a heads up. We’re not in an eminent situation, but if we call you, I want you to be able to immediately go and know whether this person is aggressive, because sometimes the relationships with law enforcement and mental healthy have gone awry, although there is a lot of movement towards that.
And so I had a recent exchange with the York County Sheriff Department, and they hadn’t heard of us. And so what I liked about it was they invited us to come and speak, but what’s difficult is because when you’re a parent of an adult, if I was a therapist of that identified child, I can’t give you any information. And so I have to imagine that there are people that are serving the clients. And when I was a case manager, I would get calls from hysterical parents. I can listen, but I can’t respond. That would be a perfect opportunity, or a police officer that was out on a scene to say, here’s Family Hope’s card. Call them. And I have yet to have an experience where a family has come that we have not gotten them into a better place. So that’s my biggest concern is about how are we not partnering? How are we not becoming part of the fold?
Paul Golding: But an interest into that point, just last week, I was part of a panel discussion that South Portland Police Department put on, and they had people from the Crisis Team, from Opportunity Alliance, and someone from NAMI, who’s people we partner with, and the behavior health professional, Dana, who goes out with the police on those calls. And so Portland has it. Westbrook has it. South Portland has it. And that’s very much on the cutting edge. That’s not typical for Maine police departments, and it’s not typical around the country. But there’s something is beginning to happen. So as Alex said, the other day when she dealt with that family, said, that’s great. What’s cool about that is we can call their police chief or their sheriff, have them talk to their peer, at the Police Chief of South Portland. They will say, here’s how we’re doing it. Here’s why we do it that way. Again, it’s incremental. That’s great. What I would love is it’s great when you do it piecemeal like that, but I would love that that be part of the curriculum of the Criminal Justice Academy … When I worked at Day One, one of our colleagues from one of our programs was on the curricula there to talk about substance abuse … to get people to make referrals to the treatment network and into Juvenile Drug Court.
Because police officers have a lot of things going through their mind when they roll up on any scene, whether it’s an accident or a crisis, but the more it’s part of their thinking of diverting people into treatment, the better it is, so it’s common, but you can tell we’re impatient. [crosstalk 00:50:08].
Dr. Belisle: I don’t blame you for your impatience, because I feel the same way. I mean, I’m seeing more rather than less violence directed towards self and other, with people who are traumatized, with people who are grieving, with people who have some sort of biologic mental illness. And it can’t come fast enough, from my standpoint, as a doctor, as a member, as a member of the community. And we have not solved this problem. And I don’t know what we’re waiting for.
Alex S.: Money, really.
Paul Golding: Well, I mean, that’s always the easiest answer. And I’m not going to disagree. If someone wants to come down with a huge bag of money, we’ll make a huge difference. But I also worked in public higher education for many, many years. And that was the joke there. We used to sit around the room. And of course, I worked in development, because we didn’t have enough money. But it was this idea it was the last thing in America that people would throw lots of money at in the vague hope that it would change things. So resource is important, but will is incredible … and smart thinking and joined up thinking and resolve to make changes. I mean, if you look at the recent issue around the gun debate, which is a natural discussion to look at … So you’ve got people on one side of the argument, they’re looking at the constitutionality of it. On the other half, they’re looking at access to weaponry and the scale of carnage that can be done by weapons. And then, it just comes polarized, and then it goes away. It becomes a stalemate.
And the thing that’s interesting to me there is whether the issue’s around who accesses guns and stuff, there has to be a point where the country transcends that and says, we have to break out of what we’ve been doing. And I do feel, I do feel that potential is there in the mental health field. Some of it is coming out of the opioid crisis, that people have realized, how did we get to this point, where we have an incredible number of deaths here in Maine? How did we get to it? How do we get out of it? And suddenly, people change the way they think. And then that leverage can happen. So when it comes back to our mission, I mean, to have three police departments, in fairly close proximity, have behavior health work, to go out on those kinds of calls, and to connect to services, and to hold community forums is great. How do we do that on a state-wide level? How do we join up? Well, it would be great if we had a Governor that thought about things in those terms, if we had a Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, who thought about it in those terms, rather than just purely in budgetary terms.
And I’ll give you a little editorial. There is a wonderful study being funded by the Lunder Foundation, looking at a similar program, not the same, but a similar program to ours, that Maine Behavioral Health is doing, in which they are looking at how do those support families of folks. And they’re tracking all the reduced costs in medication, in hospitalizations, and incarcerations, and stuff. And the Department of Health and Human Services has a great interest in what the outcome of that data is. There are specific questions, as I was given to understand is, will these people be off welfare. Will these people go back to work? If we support the families of the mentally ill people, will those mentally ill people go back to work? Will they get off welfare?
And that’s an interesting question, but it’s one question. And I think it’s not the most interesting. And I think it tells you what the agenda is. So there has to be a change in values too. And one in five, or one in four people are gonna experience mental health issues in their life, here in Maine, across the country, so we have to think about it differently. We have to view it differently. And many, many people are mentally ill and live fully functional lives. They just have to take their medication, got to treatment. Alex can talk about all that stuff, but yeah, we have to have a shift in values. And that will come. No one talked about childhood bereavement 30 years ago. Now, it’s a commonplace thing, when the kids experience bereavement differently. Mental health will be dealt with differently. It will come. I mean, it’s a cool country, because it reinvents itself every generation. It just needs to pick that as a priority and get on it. That’s my soapbox right there.
Alex S.: Another thought that I had was Portland, wen I first came here, the diversity level was zero. And now we have a huge refugee population. Actually, I volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, every Wednesday, and it’s 90% African or immigrant children. And I also had a conversation with a friend, who they’re refugees, and they’re a first break schizophrenia. And I thought, here’s another area, where culturally, language-wise, so these are the kinds of things. Paul and I are not exactly sure where we need to have this conversation. We know that we can write grants. We know who natural partners may be. And always in organizational training, especially in non-profit, when it’s connected to budgets and political ideas. I mean, and I am impatient. I am not a process person. I am a vision person. And so I’m just brimming with hope and ideas, and yet, I’m hoping that us talking about it today, maybe it will really inspire people to say, you know what? These are great ideas. And it’s not just about money. It’s about support. It’s about when you’re at church or when you’re at a coffee shop.
I mean, if I overhear people in a restaurant, that are talking about this stuff, I will approach them and say, I’m sorry for overhearing it, but I hear your pain. And I just want you to know. I mean, even in a dentist the other day, somebody asked me what I did. And I said, do you know of anybody, where this might be appropriate? And so even just that, even just being able to refer your own friends to this, I think the more stories and the more people that we’re able to touch and the more opportunities we’re able to tell real stories, my job is to get you where your heart is, to imagine, like you said, I’m a mother. I’m a citizen. I mean, I believe that that’s really what motivates people, whether we’re Republicans or Democrats. We’re parents. We’re neighbors. And this is the Love Show, and I do believe that love is really what keeps us motivated.
Dr. Belisle: I’ve been speaking with Paul Golding, who’s the Executive Directory of Family Hope and also with Alexandra Segav, who’s been with Family Hope, since 2017 and as a social worker. I really believe in the work that you’re doing. So I hope that people who are listening are going to ponder how they might be able to help out with this, because I think that this is really the time. And I appreciate all the efforts that you are putting forth.
Alex S.: Thank you so much, Lisa. I so much appreciate it.
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Dr. Belisle: You have been listening to Love Maine Radio, show 342. Our guests have included Quincy Hentzel, Paul Golding, and Alexandra Sagov. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit lovemaineradio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes. For a preview of each week’s show, sign up for our e-newsletter and like our Love Maine Radi” Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter, as Dr. Lisa, and see our Love Maine Radio photos on Instagram. Please let us know what you think of Love Maine Radio. We welcome your suggestions for future shows. Also, let our sponsors know that you have heard about them here. We are pleased that they enable us to bring Love Maine Radio to you each week. This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me, and may you have a bountiful life.