For two weeks, a guy we’ll call “D” hung out at our Folker Building lobby. He was trying to get home to Hawaii, but his wallet and ID had been stolen from the shelter where he was staying. Our lobby became his safe place. Reception staff helped him look up information, figure out how to get a new ID, and let him use the phone. He used our phone number as his contact. Once when he got a call, Jennifer ran down the driveway to find him so he wouldn’t miss it. All the staff knew it was important.
This is the kind of compassion receptionists need to work in a mental health clinic. Our Folker Building is our largest and busiest. It houses the medical team, our adult outpatient therapy clinic, Little Tykes therapeutic day program, and other early childhood services for children and families. So receptionists Kayla, Arrelle and Jennifer see a little bit of everything.
They leave the formal therapy and case management to the clinical staff, of course, but clients sometimes confide in the first person they see. Reception staff know how important that first impression is. As Kayla says, if someone comes in feeling bad, how they are treated at reception can make a huge difference. Jennifer is fluent in Spanish, and sometimes translates for medical appointments or to help people interact with the on-site pharmacy. Arrelle says its rewarding to see people get better. Recently, someone came in crisis, without an appointment. She was able to get him in to see a therapist and see him looking much better when he walked out an hour later.
As for “D”, a community member he met in our lobby helped him get a plane ticket, so he could fly home.