Like so many members of our Consumer Advisory Board (CAB), long-time BHCHP patient Kacia joined the group as a way to give back to the program that has cared for her for many years.
The board comprises up to 13 individuals who are currently or were formerly unsheltered. It meets monthly to develop BHCHP’s advocacy agenda and to provide invaluable feedback to help shape programs and policies. In essence, it’s a sounding and advisory board for BHCHP leadership and has played a huge role in how our program serves its patients. We couldn’t function as effectively as we do without the CAB.
The CAB also gets involved with patient satisfaction surveys, voter registration, and staff orientation. And during the holidays, members bring cheer and deliver presents BHCHP partner shelters. Our Consumer Advisory Board has been operating for over 25 years, was the first of its kind in the nation and the model has been replicated around the country.
Kacia, who grew up locally and developed a substance use disorder at an early age, lived on the streets for more than two decades, much of that time sleeping under bridges. She first got to know BHCHP through Dr. O’Connell’s Street Team, allowing them to care for her when they encountered her outdoors. “Dr. Jim, Cheryl Kane, Suzanne, Dr. Bonner all supported me with medicine, a caring ear, empathy, and food from the Pine Street Inn outreach van,” she recalls.
As she grew to trust her street team providers, she began to go to our BHCHP clinics at Mass General Hospital and at 780 Albany Street. This is when Kacia was able to take advantage of our BHCHP entire continuum of care. She stayed at our Barbara McInnis House, a 24/7 medical respite program for patients who are too sick for the streets, but not ill enough for an inpatient hospital stay. She recalls fondly her BHCHP respite provider Peggi. Our BHCHP clinicians referred her to a residential recovery program and she worked hard to get healthy and to maintain her sobriety. Eventually Kacia got housed. We are so glad that Kacia accepted our care and now we benefit from her invaluable advice on our Consumer Advisory Board.
“One of my providers approached me and said I would be a great asset to a sub-committee for the Consumer Advisory Board, which I agreed to do,” says Kacia. A year later, she applied to be a member of the main CAB and was accepted and she enjoys working with Barbara Donahue, BHCHP staff member and CAB coordinator.
Why did she decide to join the CAB? “I wanted to give back what was so freely given to me. I want to make a difference in someone’s life,” she explains. These days, her involvement with BHCHP extends beyond the CAB. She also educates our respite patients about housing options and serves on the medical respite leadership team, which meets monthly. In her spare time, she loves to cook and watch tv and dreams of someday writing a memoir.