You could say that after almost 40 years Robin Hughes has seen it all. She began her career at Maine Medical Center as a secretary when it was located at Holt Hall in 1979. She moved to McGeachey Hall, working in the Adult Outpatient Mental Health Clinic, until 1993. She then spent 25 years working at the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) ACCESS team first in an administrative support role that ultimately transitioned into a case management position.
ACT is an intensive community-based treatment program with a multi-disciplinary team of providers that support the needs of individuals who may have a major mental illness diagnosis and often co-occurring disorders, such as substance use disorders and other health issues, like diabetes. As a member of the team Robin helped coordinate group therapies, doctor and psychiatrist appointments, as well as guiding clients through practical life skills such navigating the grocery store and reminding them to fill out blood sugar or employment logs. This intensive case management meant meeting with clients at least three times a week and serving as a Case Manager
After many years with the ACT team, Robin felt challenged to keep up the pace and intended to retire. Instead, she decided to stay with Maine Behavioral Healthcare and took a position as a Case manager with the Behavioral Health Home program at the Lancaster Street office in Portland. The transition meant she could still do what she loved but at a more predictable pace, seeing fewer clients a week but still participate in the realm of collaborative care.
The slowdown has allowed her to focus on new projects like facilitating a woman’s group for new moms, designed as a casual coffee chat. The group is a great way to introduce the concept of group therapy in a less intimidating atmosphere.
“Being here for 40 years shows an amazing level of dedication, not only to her clients but her coworkers too,” said Mary Guzik, Robin’s supervisor. “I am constantly in awe of her ability to balance genuine care with her steadfast work ethic.”
This unwavering commitment to care comes in handy as Robin sees firsthand the challenges faced by many in the community.
“The amount of homelessness in Greater Portland is staggering,” Robin stated. “A lack of affordable housing in Greater Portland means seeking housing further out and the further out you go, the more lack of transportation becomes a barrier, which means clients don’t have the same access to appointments or pharmacies, and ultimately experience increased isolation.”
Robin credits the support of her coworkers, and learning from the multi-disciplinary Team members as critical to her case management success.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all the support, help and laughs from everyone I work with and have worked with,” she said. “At times, in the moment, the ability to consult with and learn from other staff members, has been invaluable. The work is challenging and you’re not going to know every answer, and not every case is the same. Support doesn’t mean weakness. It means connections – you feel less isolated and more connected, which makes your clients feel the same way.”