“MCAS made it very safe for me to be honest.”
Meet Cassy, Care Manager II at Serafina Women’s Services.
Join us for the Grand Opening of Serafina Women’s Services on 5/14!
“If it weren’t for my high school counselor, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Casandra Valenzuela, Care Manager II at Serafina Women’s Services. Without the dedication and sincere concern that her counselor had for her future, Cassy says she would have never attended college or pursued working in behavioral health-care.
“She literally saved my life,” said Cassy. “She would tell me about every scholarship I qualified for and made sure I completed each and every application. She refused to see me fail, because she saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.”
Cassy graduated from the University of Arizona in May of 2009, shortly after the birth of her daughter, Anyssa Hayle.
Cassy’s instinctive desire to help people made her position at CODAC a natural fit from the start. In December of 2010, Cassy began her career as a Care Manager with the Young Adult Team. Her personable and relatable character made it easy for her to bond with CODAC’s members ages 18-25.
“I am real with every single one of my members,” said Cassy. “I think that is what makes them feel comfortable in opening up to me. I don’t put on this persona that I am somehow better or more professional than them.”
“My relationship with most of my members is very open and honest and I really care for them. I want to see them be successful and hurt for them when they are not.”
Cassy has recently transitioned from her position with the Young Adult Team to Serafina Women’s Services, specifically the MCAS program. This welcomed change also brought the challenge of having to say goodbye to her members.
“I had a member who had a roller-coaster of a relationship with me,” Cassy recalled. Although he had been doing well, he started using substances again while on Cassy’s caseload. “He would yell at me, call me names, and even walk out in the middle of our appointments.”
The young man eventually ended up in jail; however, Cassy did not feel it was appropriate to close him. After numerous attempts to contact him, she decided that she would go through with closing his case. On that same day, he called.
“He showed up to his appointment with me and he looked so healthy. I felt like he needed jail because, for him, this was rock bottom. After [being released from jail], he was so engaged in services and offered such great insight in our groups.”
This was the last member from the Young Adult Team that Cassy met with before transferring this past March. In that appointment, he expressed words that Cassy never expected to hear from him. “He thanked me. He thanked me for always being consistent, for always being the same person regardless of how he treated me, and for always making time for him.”
“He said that he didn’t think he would be here without that, and that was so powerful to me. There is no monetary value that could be given to me that could make me feel the same way those words did,” she emphasized.
Cassy is enjoying the transition to Women’s Services. “This is a population that I really wanted to work with because I grew up in a household that was filled with drug abuse,” she explained. Cassy’s history helps her relate to the women she now works with.
Currently, Cassy is working towards obtaining her Master’s degree. “My new life goal is to get a Doctorate in Nurse Practitioning with a specialty in pediatrics. I want to work with kids.”
When not in the First Avenue office, you can find Katrina Rodriguez enjoying her favored
physical activities: running and yoga. “Yoga centers me and keeps me out of my head. It focuses me and brings me back to the present moment,” said Katrina.
Yoga, a form of moving meditation, is one of several that Katrina embraces. Meditation and exercise are tools that Katrina utilizes to keep her life in balance outside of work.
Katrina began working for CODAC shortly after graduating from the University of Arizona in May of 2011. She chose to enter the behavioral health field to fuel her compassion towards others. “I like helping people,” said Katrina. “I like feeling like what I do makes a difference and going home each day knowing that what I did is some type of contribution, even if it is small.”
As a Care Manager II, Katrina’s role includes coordination of behavioral health services for members. “I make sure that members get the services that they need, follow up with them on the treatment plans as well as identify ways to reach their goals,” said Katrina. Additionally, Care Managers provide supportive services to enhance the effectiveness of treatment goals whether it is community outreach, education regarding programs and services, or crisis intervention.
The only reported down side to Katrina’s role is the paperwork, she emphasized. “There is a lot of paperwork and it’s actually harder than working with the members,” she joked. “Working with members is the best part.”
Things can certainly get interesting around the office, however, as Katrina recalled one of the most interesting days she’s had. “CPSA put out an alert that we needed to move all of our members out of a board and care ASAP and the supervisors and site director were all at training.” Katrina and one other person were responsible for doing this within a very limited time frame. “It was stressful, but kind of exciting because of the pressure.”
In Katrina’s role, she often times will refer members to resources within the community. However, Katrina’s favorite resource is her co-workers. “They each have an individual wealth of knowledge that they are always more than willing to share,” she explained.
Katrina explained that the reward of her job at CODAC is witnessing the positive changes in members over time. “I see people grow and overcome obstacles. They are able to handle things more independently.” Through her role, she, too, is able to make positive impacts in the lives of CODAC members.
“I fell into the behavioral health field because $11.00 an hour seemed like a lot of money,” giggled Christine Perez, Care Coordinator at CODAC’s Downtown Site. When Christine first entered this field in 1986, she followed the career path of her relatives who also worked in behavioral health.
Christine worked at various facilities while living in Albany, New York, including the first residential facility for the treatment of the “Mentally Ill and Chemically Addicted” (MICA) where she taught living skills and activities of daily living.
In need of a scenery change and enticed by Tucson’s warm winters, Christine decided to make the move to the southwest at the age of 27.
She began her work at CODAC as a case manager at the East site and soon after, transitioned into a supervisor role. She is currently a care coordinator at the Downtown site’s Recovery Bridge where she has been for the past two years. Christine is responsible for the intake assessments, general case management related duties, and runs the intensive outpatient Basic Recovery Group.
“One of the challenges of my job is trying to get people to actually identify that they need assistance,” said Christine. “My goal is to get them to acknowledge they need help without being forced to do so,” she added.
Outside of those challenges, Christine finds heartfelt passion in the behavioral health profession. “This isn’t the type of job where you get a lot of kudos. You have to be dedicated to working with people and be willing to meet them where they are at.” Christine said. “You really have to care.”
It’s the little achievements that make Christine’s career worthwhile. “You need to look at those small steps that members make, like showing up to an appointment, coming to group consistently, and being reunited with their families.”
Christine presented a card that had been sent to her by a member who she had previously worked with. This member is currently at Las Amigas, residential treatment facility for pregnant and postpartum women with substance abuse disorders. The card reads:
“…I am 53 days sober today! Las Amigas is great and I am doing very well. Because of you I am safe and getting the help I so desperately need. I have never been sober this long in my entire life! … Thank you for helping me get the chance to help myself.”
Mementos such as these are why Christine works at CODAC. “This member was extremely challenging,” said Christine. “But now she is doing better and has been reunited with her family.”