Justin Paine and his parents used to have to visit several providers to get the help he needed for his multiple diagnoses, which range from autism to schizoaffective disorder. Now, he gets all his services under one roof thanks to the Center for Life Management’s Continuum of Collaborative Care, a specialized treatment model to support individuals with dual diagnoses of intellectual disabilities or traumatic brain injury and mental health issues.
“Everything is under one umbrella, so I don’t have to worry about where am I going to get this service or that service, which is how it was in the beginning,” says Justin’s mother, Debra. “I was drowning.”
A collaborative effort by CLM and Community Crossroads, an “area agency” supporting those with developmental disabilities or acquired brain disorders, the program provides more coordinated care and broader services to those with dual diagnoses. The New Hampshire Bureau of Behavioral Health and Department of Developmental Disabilities have recognized it as a best practice treatment model and it is being implemented at community mental health centers and developmental disabilities agencies throughout the state.
“We focus on whole-person care and breaking down silos,” says Julie Lago, CLM’s director of Collaborative Care. “We pulled all Justin’s meetings together for mom and dad and that was especially important because having multiple meetings is exhausting and repeating your story is exhausting. We started merging meetings and if something needed to be communicated between CLM and Community Crossroads or vice-versa, we were picking up the phone before he was even out of the building.”
Justin, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 6 and became a CLM client at 16, says he is “very grateful to have such an incredible amount of collaborators that I have a chance to work with in the Collaborative Care program.”
Now 30, he not only sees a CLM therapist regularly, but also participates in a weekly men’s group, illness management sessions and a fitness program called InSHAPE, which finds him taking long walks with his CLM Wellness Coach – while they debate which contestants are likely to be winners on reality TV shows like “The Bachelor” and its spinoffs, according to Justin.
“Justin is such a nice example of somebody who gets all our wrap-around services and it’s helped him maintain stability, his overall wellness,” says Julie. “He’s a great example of ‘people are not their diagnosis.’”
That stability has also enabled Justin to pursue many community activities. Pre-COVID, he traveled to the Plaistow Public Library to sing and read books to toddlers once a week – an activity that made Wednesdays “one of my favorite days of the week,” he says, adding that he hopes to resume when conditions allow.
He works out with a personal trainer twice a week, has participated in Special Olympics and is also active in Play Among The Stars Theatre Groupe, Inc., a non-profit organization for the physically and developmentally challenged, which puts on two shows each year. In Christmas shows, he is often cast as “the man, the myth, the legend, Santa Claus,” Justin says with a laugh. “I love performing. It’s been part of my DNA since I was a kid,” he adds. In August, he sang the National Anthem at an Autism Awareness Day event at the Londonderry Speedway.
Justin credits his parents, Debra and Joseph, for providing love and support throughout his journey toward wellness. They, in turn, credit CLM and programs like the Continuum of Collaborative Care. “It really does take a village,” Debra says. “Luckily, I have a village.”