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Waverley Place

Community support... one day at a time

When you walk into Waverley Place, you would never know it was once a local pharmacy; the aisles and shelves are long gone, replaced with comfortable sofas and chairs in a spacious living area, two meeting rooms and five offices. It has become a place where a special group of adults from all over Boston gather to share experiences and build their lives. This grand transformation in the heart of Belmont, made possible through an anonymous $12.5-million donation to McLean, has created not only a welcoming environment, but also an innovative rehabilitation program for individuals with chronic mental illness.

When Kristen Aldrich became a member of Waverley Place, she was overwhelmed by the support she received. Kristen suffers from schizoaffective disorder, an illness characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia and a major mood disorder, such as depression or mania. She has been admitted to various hospitals multiple times and has had three serious suicide attempts since age 14. She says the unique approach at Waverley Place gives her hope.

Joseph Gold

Paul Barreira, MD
Chief of Community Clinical Services

"Waverley Place has all the principles and components of rehabilitation, but it is organized differently, making it unlike any other program."

"Staff members don't concentrate on your diagnosis. They concentrate on where you are at the moment and how they can help you get better," says Kristen. "I have seen others improve enough to go to work. It's very comforting."

Located close to the McLean campus, Waverley Place is breaking new ground when it comes to psychiatric rehabilitation. Rather than placing members into pre-existing programs, the staff of 10 develops an individualized plan for each member based on his or her point in recovery. The staff provides hands-on practical assistance in the community as well. It is not unusual for a counselor to accompany a member to the grocery store or to a doctor's appointment or even to help a member pay household bills.

Program Manager Dana Holley, LICSW, says the $12.5-million endowment, one of the largest charitable gifts to a Partners hospital, makes it possible to provide services in a unique way rather than having to conform to insurance company guidelines.

"We're not forcing people into goals that aren't what they want for themselves; we're going with their motivation and I'm finding it's much more effective," she says.

Waverley Place Director Paul Barreira, MD, McLean Hospital's chief of Community Clinical Services, agrees. He helped come up with the idea and played a central role in the program's design.

"I viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a better program," he says. "Waverley Place has all the principles and components of rehabilitation, but it is organized differently, making it unlike any other program."

Part of the innovative approach is hiring peer educators and counselors, who have also battled serious mental illness and serve as true role models. They help members set their own goals and then help them take steps each day toward achieving them.

Christine Alexander comes to Waverley Place every day.

Waverely Place

At Waverely Place. Kristen Aldrich, peer counselor Mark Rosania and Christine Alexander enjoy the comraderie of designing and producing greeting cards, an activity program members have turned into a business.

"The counselors are very gentle. They don't push."

Says peer counselor Mark Rosania, "Opening up has helped me to become a healthier person. It also helps members because it gives them hope that they too can move beyond their illness."

Kristen agrees. "I feel so blessed to have this program. I am so grateful someone thought of it."

Rosalie's ride

She braved inclement weather, sore muscles and bears, but Rosalie Parker, a former US Women's Boxing Champion, finished her 4,166-mile cross-country bike trek in honor of her cousin Max. Along the way, she also raised nearly $32,000 from 130 people for McLean Hospital's Waverley Place, Max Parker's employer and favorite cause.

Max is a peer counselor who battled back from delusions, mania and depression. He fell ill while a high-school senior, but after several difficult years, he graduated from Tufts University, and is now dedicating himself to helping others with psychiatric illness.

"I have personal experience and I want to use it in a positive way," he says. Says Rosalie, "I dedicated this ride to Max, in celebration of his success and in recognition of his strength in traversing a difficult path. He is one of the greatest comebacks of all time."

Though she faced many challenges during her ride, Rosalie says Max's on-going journey is far more daunting. With quality support and access to care, she believes others can do the same.

"Everyone here [at Waverley Place] is somebody's cousin, son or daughter. I'm happy if I can be a part of giving them a chance."