In some ways, the pandemic has opened up new ways for Villa Maria to make community-based behavioral mental health services accessible to clients. Still, Crystal Nixon, the Fallstaff Behavioral health Clinic’s office manager, misses her face-to-face interactions with clients.
“Telehealth has been wonderful, and it will exist in our future, especially for clients with transportation issues and for the elderly,” she said. “But face-to-face and over the phone are different.”
Having been raised in a tiny hamlet in South Carolina, Crystal knows firsthand the barriers her clients have to even knowing that such services are available to them.
“If we had mental health problems in the family or the community back down South, it wasn’t addressed, or even talked about,” she remembered. “The challenge, I believe, for a lot of our families is that they don’t know that there is help out there. Having our clinic here in this westside neighborhood, it shows that we actually care, that they can come to us and say, ‘I need help.’”
During Crystal’s 19-year journey with Catholic Charities, she has gained a deep reservoir of insights and skills that she uses every day in her leadership role at the clinic. She started in housekeeping at the Villa Maria residential treatment center for children.
“It was an amazing experience to walk a mile in their shoes. I’ve learned so much and grown tremendously from the families and children we served.”
Crystal’s dedication led to being tapped for a positon at the center’s front desk. Eventually, she moved to the Fallstaff location as administrative assistant, and finally, with encouragement from her supervisor, landed the job as the clinic’s office manager.
Staying in her position as other staff came and went, Crystal built relationships with clients.
“It made me feel I had a purpose,” she said. “I was persistent. I told families, ‘I have no intention of leaving.’ It was no longer a job, but an obligation for me to be there, to make sure they knew they were wanted. A lot of our families are in poverty-driven, unsafe areas, so dealing with that on top of mental health issues can be really challenging.”
Crystal is proud of the level of wraparound services and life skill-building the clinic is able to make available to help the clinic’s clients improve their lives. For now, the clinic team is still working remotely. “We do virtual meetings to encourage each other. My supervisor is really good with keeping us all in touch and to maintain that bond, to help each other with the work we do. We’re getting it done.”