Mental health professional thrives with diversion team

Mental health is important to Crystal Caldwell, a mental health professional for the diversion team at Ouachita Behavioral Health & Wellness.

“I provide mental health counseling for people,” she said. “Basically, they’ll be sent to us. Often, they’ll probably be sent through probation or parole, sometimes through special courts like drug court, DUI court, mental health court, and they’ll come in. I handle the health side of things.

“So I work with them in individual counseling to deal with those issues, if they have symptoms of depression, anxiety, maybe other mood disorders, schizophrenia, things of that nature. I can help them access treatment providers. , such as a nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, to receive medication management if they need it.”

The diversion team, made up of six staff, including Caldwell, provides access to mental health services, substance abuse peer support, the criminal justice system and case management services, as well as a warmline that provides information and support.

“I think people are extremely interesting,” Caldwell said. “I just enjoy trying to understand, and to me, it’s not even about the psychology part of it. … I really like the field itself because it’s really fun to try and reach people like that and There’s an opportunity to reach those who often don’t get much.” Helped and don’t get much support.

“They’re often overlooked, and I hate to say it, but sometimes, they’re dehumanized or thrown away. Or people don’t, they’re not comfortable with it or they don’t like it.” understand, and they don’t want to address it, but these people need help.”

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With a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas, she is also a licensed psychological examiner with independent status.

Immediately after graduation, Caldwell began her career with an internship at a community mental health center. She eventually began working at the Ouachita River Unit prison in Malvern, in the mental health intake.

“At first, I was very adamant, ‘No, not at all. This doesn’t seem like a good time,'” she said.

“But I kinda took a leap of faith and I applied there. … I’d probably still be there because I really fell in love with working with this population. I’d still be there if this opportunity didn’t come up.” “

“Working in a prison, it felt like a lot of the people that were incarcerated there are non-violent offenders. A lot of times, it’s a parole violation. They’re there because they’ve been sentenced on probation revocation, a lot All the substance abuse issues. But you can actually talk to them and you can see the human beings that are there,” Caldwell said.

“And looking at the struggles and the attrition rates and the revolving door, it felt like some of the same people kept coming back over and over again, and I felt like something needed to give somewhere, something clearly went wrong, And these people need help to get back on their feet.”

Caldwell discusses breaking the cycle by providing those released from incarceration access to resources, education, and a support system, all things she is able to provide with her team at OBHAW.

Caldwell said that not only do programs that reduce crime rates benefit individuals and their families, but the community as well.

“It benefits the community because they are now productive,” she said. “They’re doing the things that we want them to do and need them to do. And so, to me, it just seems like it makes sense to try and address that issue.”

However, Caldwell believes you don’t have to make an impact on the lives of many people to make a difference in the community, she said.

“If you positively impact one person, you’ve impacted the community,” she said. “So I’m fine with it.

“I don’t think there’s any possible way I could do anything (as) effective with a team of people. I couldn’t do it without my team. They’re amazing.”

Caldwell has no plans to leave her team anytime soon, she said.

“I really can’t see[myself]doing anything other than mental health, and now that I’ve worked with this population, I really can’t imagine doing anything other than being there for them.” What I can do to make things better, so I don’t know. I think this is probably where you’ll find me in 15, 20 years, maybe even retirement.”

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