January 25, 2008

VUSN program helps ease former inmates’ journeys

Featured Image

The School of Nursing’s Susie Adams, Ph.D., right, shares a laugh with Next Door resident Lisa Cash. (photo by Dana Johnson)

VUSN program helps ease former inmates’ journeys

Next Door resident Sherron Beard, left, talks with nursing students Kersten Schmidt, Mary Carter and Eydie Cloyd, M.S.N. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Next Door resident Sherron Beard, left, talks with nursing students Kersten Schmidt, Mary Carter and Eydie Cloyd, M.S.N. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Women leaving prison are receiving behavioral health and addiction recovery services through a partnership between the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and The Next Door residential recovery program.

During the last three years, more than 400 formerly incarcerated women have participated in the six-month program, which focuses on recovery from co-occurring disorders and helping the women transition back into society.

“These women come out of prison and are struggling with their newfound freedom, getting a job with a living wage and everyday challenges,” said Cindy Sneed, LPC-MHSP, chief clinical officer for The Next Door Inc. “We provide wraparound services ranging from case management and counseling to life skills that help them beat the odds of relapsing.”

One key to addressing those complex behavioral health issues is Susie Adams, Ph.D., R.N., program director for VUSN's Psychiatric-Mental Health nurse practitioner program. Adams and Sneed collaborated to develop this agency as a clinical placement site. As a result of client needs, the partnership also grew into on-site medical management.

“They get real-world experience and are treated as professional members of the overall health care team,” said Adams. “And with that comes responsibility, greater investment in this program and more rewarding educational experiences.”

New participants receive a thorough psychiatric evaluation by a group that includes psychiatrist Reid Finlayson, M.D., and VUSN-educated nurse practitioners Eydie Cloyd and Adrienne Hollis. New residents also receive intensive orientation and group counseling to help find a job, develop life skills and move toward independence.

Every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., the behavioral health care team comes to the facility and sets up an in-house clinic. The practitioners, paired with VUSN students, typically see eight to 10 patients an evening for psychiatric evaluations and medication management.

“We are seeing great success treating disorders together,” said Sneed. “Sometimes it's hard to separate depression from alcoholism or to work through the challenges of everyday life sober when you are used to medicating yourself with substances.”

Most of the clients have difficult histories prior to entering prison. A majority have been physically and /or sexually abused from a young age. The health care team sees many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or bipolar disorder, but relatively few cases of psychosis.

“These are women who are not typically embraced by society, but when you work with them you see they are trying hard to live clean, healthy and independently,” said Adams.

Second-year psychiatry/mental health nurse practitioner student Mary Carter has gained much from her experience working at The Next Door.

“At first I would drive home overwhelmed by feelings that I need to solve all their problems,” said Carter. “Now I realize these women are incredibly strong. They have lived through things like prostitution and incest.

“My job isn't to save them, it's to help them see for themselves how strong they really are.”

The Next Door Inc. opened a second residential facility this summer, specifically designed for women with children who also have co-occurring disorders. Adams recently earned her Ph.D., for research she conducted on women in the program.