Kadeem had been working with CASES Brooklyn Intensive Mobile Treatment (IMT) team for more than a year when challenges in a relationship contributed to a substance use relapse and an arrest that led to a stay at Rikers Island.
“It was rough,” Kadeem said about being at Rikers. “It was gangs in there. They were fighting people. They would assault people. It was not a place you wanted to be.”
Detainment at Rikers led to Kadeem losing housing he had secured with the support of the CASES IMT team, and he understood that upon release he would likely have to return to a shelter. One thing he was sure about: the CASES IMT team would be waiting and ready.
“We keep trying to build the engagement, build the trust, build the rapport, build the connection,” said Patricia Haversham-Brown, Director of IMT.
“They (CASES) kept being persistent,” he says. “They kept saying, ‘We’re just here to help you.’ and they stick to their word.”
When Kadeem was initially connected to CASES back in 2016, he was living in a Brooklyn shelter and struggling with mental illness and addiction. “I felt like, you know, the world was crashing in on me. I felt really bad about the place I was at.”
Kadeem became one of the first clients in CASES IMT services. Modeled after the evidence-based Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) approach, IMT features a mobile team of psychiatrists, clinicians, peer specialists, nurses, substance use specialists, and case managers. This multidisciplinary team provides services primarily in clients’ preferred settings in the community, establishing trust and building relationships to support the long-term work of recovery from behavioral health needs while addressing challenges that increase vulnerability to hospitalization and criminal legal system involvement. IMT seeks to provide a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to support healing and wellness in the community along with opportunities for success, including housing and employment.
Even though Kadeem wanted support, he was initially reluctant to talk to anyone at CASES. He feared that the process would be invasive and that his information would not be kept private. However, Kadeem was dedicated to his recovery, and as a result, he built relationships at CASES that helped him manage his substance use and emotions. Eventually, he came to regard his supporters at CASES as companions.
Even though Kadeem has family in Queens who he can lean on, he notes that family is not always the most reliable source of help. With CASES, Kadeem has “somebody to call when I’m lonely. Somebody to say, ‘Hey, can I see you tomorrow?’” Further, he appreciates their continued presence in his life—one of the key innovations of the IMT model is its multiyear approach, recognizing that recovery is not a linear process and that challenges including incarceration are too often a reality for people living with serious mental illnesses and that sustained, continuous support is essential.
CASES’ approach has given Kadeem the opportunity to pursue multiple goals. In addition to improving his behavioral health, he has secured a job and housing and has made better connections with his family. His journey emphasizes how a comprehensive but community-based approach can be successful.
Now Kadeem is living in his own apartment. He is excited to have a place to call home, one that will provide him with a sense of security and stability. He is looking forward to decorating his new place and has worked with the IMT team to develop a plan to pay off his debts and get his driver’s license, including to increase his employment options.
When asked about his mental health, Kadeem said that he feels good and stable now. He takes his medication, talks to a psychiatrist from CASES, and participates in outpatient groups in his community that support him with emotional regulation and relapse prevention.
Although Kadeem is doing well, he still faces struggles from time to time. He recognizes that progress is not a linear path and sees his recovery as an ongoing process. “It’s more about harm reduction,” Kadeem says in reference to his substance use. “[It’s about] trying to slow down as much as possible.”
His peer counselor from CASES, Lyle Brathwaite, also speaks to Kadeem’s improvement as an exercise in persistence. “And this is just the beginning,” Lyle says. “He’s got his housing. The only other thing I could say is…continue on your path.”
If Kadeem could impart advice to those who have struggled with substance use and criminal legal system involvement, he would urge them to push forward as he has. “Just stick it out. Be brave,” he says. “Talk as much as you can about what you can change, what is good for you. That helps.”
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