Melanie Rachko is very pleased to be the recently-hired clinical director of MHA’s GRIT-Yale Street residential recovery program that she sees as one-of-a-kind in the state. It opened last year for those who identify LGBTQ+ with co-occurring substance use and mental health diagnoses.

“It is wonderful to see a place like GRIT-Yale Street when I have seen so many organizations refer out clients because they don’t have the services,” said Melanie who has worked in the mental health field for 10 years. “For recovery and healing to happen we need to be curious and try new things and GRIT-Yale Street is a perfect example of that person-centered care. It stands alone in what services at this level of care it delivers to those who are LGBTQ+.”

She says what residents cite as the program’s No. 1 feature is safety, followed by supportive environment.

“Safety is No. 1 in terms of what residents mention to me when asked about the program,” Melanie said. “It has been a humbling experience to hear the amount of violence they have experienced whether it be at a prior residence or homeless shelter or their own home or foster care, and the lack of safety they have had on a daily basis.”

She said residents tell her they “can sleep through the night at Yale Street” as well as “relate to the people in the house” and are “not worried about anybody trying to hurt me.”

Melanie attributes the support felt within the program to both the residents and staff.

“Part of working with LGBTQ+ individuals is that it is a community unlike any other community and you get to see the power of that connection that they have with each other and the shared experience,” Melanie said. “It is also my community as a queer woman of color.”

She added, “Being able to be in a community of your peers and have staff who want to support you and walk along this journey of recovery with you is what makes all the difference in a program and it something I see every day when I am coming in here.”

“During my interview process, the staff had residents come in and sit with me and ask me questions,” Melanie said. “This was an experience that I never had in an organization and it shows how important it is to the staff at Yale Street to have residents feel comfortable with who is hired.”

Melanie, interviewed on the day one of the residents was graduating Yale Street, said the celebration would serve up both excitement and inspiration for the other residents.

“A graduation shows other residents that it is possible to follow our program and have your life completely turn around,” Melanie said. “My goal always with the people I am working with here is to empower them to advocate for themselves, understand the choices and unfortunate trauma that led them to this program, and to heal through its consistent safety, connections and opportunities. Yale Street is a place where dreams are fostered and where we walk alongside residents as they go through each stage of recovery.”