Spotlight is a monthly profile of a YCSP staff member or volunteer. Our first Spotlight is about Jennifer Ouellette, our Clinical Services Director.
Jennifer Ouellette has been with YCSP for 28 years; for the past 21 years she has served as our Clinical Services Director. The Clinical Department includes a staff, on average, of about 45 to 50 people – all people who are helping our residents who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. (For a complete overview of those services and programs , visit the Programs section of our website.)
Jen has a fierce commitment to helping others – people who may never have had anyone extending a helping hand until they arrived at the shelter. She says she has known since was a middle-schooler that she wanted to work in the helping professions.
Jen started here in 1991 as a weekend overnight residential tech. This led to other jobs within the agency, including working as a receptionist. In 1992 she worked as the supervisor of a grant-funded program for women with children. By then Jen had developed an interest in addiction work, and was pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling from the University of Southern Maine. When the grant-funded program ended, she worked at the shelter as a case manager; by 1996 she had earned her alcohol and drug counselor license, and she became a counselor at the shelter. In 1998 she ran the family emergency shelter for a short time, and then became the Clinical Director. She has four licenses – an LCPC, LADC,CCS and MHRTc.
With Jen’s guidance and development of programs, YCSP has increased its mental health and addiction treatment services. They include a community outreach program to assist people who need care while attempting to live independently; medication management and medication-assisted treatment programs; targeted case management; and Layman Way, a unique residential treatment center that works in partnership with the county’s district attorney.
An important part of Jen’s work is attempting to get services for people who have no money to pay for care or services. “To me, everything I have been taught revolves around helping, in any way you can, no matter what,” she says. “Having to tell someone you cannot help because they cannot pay goes against my core belief about what human services work really is. Those with no money really, truly, need the help.”
Jen notes that for people trapped in poverty, moving forward can feel impossible. She lists examples.
“How do you secure a job when you have no car, or when you need substantial dental work? How do you return to school when you live 30 miles away and have two children? How do you job search when you have no internet?” she says. “How do you work when you have three kids, one with special needs, when there is no affordable child care? How can you manage to secure an apartment when asked for first, last, and security deposits? How do you get up and move forward when you struggle with debilitating symptoms of an untreated mental health issue that you cannot obtain psychiatric care or medications for because you have no money? How do you make yourself and your children feel safe when you are victims of domestic violence and have to flee?”
Jen gets up every day hoping for positive outcomes. “The work is challenging in many ways,” she says. “We see a lot of suffering. But, we also see incredible miracles, testament to the human spirit, alive in all of us, if someone has hope. We offer hope, in big and small ways. To be a part of someone’s recovery (recovery to me is not only about chemical dependency, but recovery from trauma, from homelessness, from mental health issues) and to be trusted with the deepest parts of themselves is an honor.”
Jen gives everything she has to help our clients and residents. We are grateful to have her here.