What’s Love Got To Do with Community Mental Health?
CSNW is fortunate to be one of the few community behavioral health organizations in the area that has enough prescribers on staff to meet the demand of the folks we serve.
What’s even more significant is that our medical director and psychiatrist, George Mecouch, takes the show on the road throughout the week, actively visiting different locations, remote areas, and the permanent supported housing at Lincoln’s Place.
A psychiatrist off the couch and out in the community?
That is exceptional.
“Oh yeah? How’s that?” I ask.
He smiles mischievously,
“Well—what’s love got to do with it? Absolutely everything…”
When you’re talking with Mecouch it’s difficult to forget his over thirty-five years of psychological training and expertise; the concepts seem to hang off of every word. He knows his stuff. Whether its Jungian psychoanalytics (which he is classically educated in), Mentalization Based Therapy, or any number of other theories, he seems to cut a course through them. His passion for behavioral health and the concepts that underpin its practice is evident. However, the most striking reality when talking to him is his commitment to expanding care, and challenging the status quo.
“Years ago,” he tells me, “I was studying for my boards, researching psychoticism, and I fell asleep. I ended up having a dream, where a huge man with psychosis comes up to me and tells me that I’m ‘reading from the wrong book.’”
The wrong book is, apparently, the traditional approach to therapy. Safe. Stodgy. Clinging close to the couch.
Mecouch envisions a methodology that is anything but business as usual. He tells me that community behavioral health is about taking the services to the clients, bringing them an unparalleled level of belonging and care. “Things are VERY different here at CSNW than they were, say, six-years ago…we’re ramping up—the intensity of cases, the dried up housing market, the number of people experiencing homelessness—the need is far greater. And the significant thing is that our ability to bring services to this population is also much better—our community based programs (PACT, CST, Engagement, Housing, Jail based SUD services) are really second to none. And we’re just taking it to the next level. It just gets better from here.”
Organizations often reflect their leadership—and Mecouch is leading by example. Executive Director “Bunk” Moren says,
“I don’t know of any other medical director or psychiatrist who is going into places like he is. He really puts himself out there.”
Bunk say he indirectly found out that Mecouch had been going weekly to Lincoln Place, the new permanent supportive housing installation in downtown Vancouver that houses the most physically vulnerable chronically homeless individuals in Clark County, to provide medication services. “He’s taking services to people who otherwise would NEVER access them on their own and even with community based staff assisting, still would struggle to get to a clinic to see a prescriber.” Bunk comments.
“Look, I’ve always believed this should be the model. It’s why I say Love has everything to do with this…” He tells me about a client who the PACT team was working with, “Institutionalized multiple times. Tons of medications. Numerous therapists. Living on the streets…really it seemed pretty hopeless. But the approach we took—what I call the Four Pillars of good therapy— is creating an environment of belonging, where a person is truly seen, where their sense of efficacy—of mastery—can grow and develop over time and ultimately where they connect to a greater sense of purpose or meaning. Really, we try to create an exceptional relationship. That’s what we did with her. One step at a time—communicating love and care.”
“ Today,” he tells me, “she’s a changed person. We were able to help secure her permanent housing, a stable job, and consistent treatment. The significant issue here is the care. And she sees the difference—she’s excited about life again. That’s the model we are taking to the streets. And I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it.”