Care coordinator Michelle Martins with Carol, a client and NY Giants fan
The Birth of Melissa's Project: A Challenge
Every person in the State of Connecticut who is 18 years of age or older is considered to be an adult—legally capable of directing his or her personal and financial affairs. Adults with mental disability, however, may be totally or partially unable to meet essential requirements for their physical health or safety and/or unable to make informed decisions about matters related to their care. In these cases, the Probate Court is authorized to appoint a guardian—or conservator—to supervise all aspects or certain aspects of the care of such an adult.
But what happens to an individual with mental health challenges once he or she leaves an inpatient facility and becomes a part of the community-at-large?
It can sometimes take years of continuous care to ensure that a discharged patient adheres to and benefits from his or her medication and rehabilitation plan—and that every professional service provider performs according to the post-discharge strategy. Unfortunately, with any such chronic illness that puts both financial and personnel strains on human services agencies, the plans are often inefficient, ineffective, and poorly managed.
In addition, persons with severe and persistent mental illnesses rarely fit neatly into the consumer profile of any one state or local agency. Instead, most individuals find themselves receiving services from many agencies and, quite often, the services or eligibility requirements of one may preclude services from another.
The Guardian Model of Collaboration: The Solution
In 2001, representatives from Connecticut's Probate Court Administration, the Department of Mental Health, the Chief Forensic Psychiatrist's Office, Yale University, and the legal profession convened to develop a plan to ensure the proper and efficient delivery of services to persons with severe and persistent mental illnesses living in the community.
In 2002, Guardian ad Litem Services (GALS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Naugatuck, Connecticut, was founded to act as a resource for people who are given, or assume, the task of caring for individuals with mental illness. Melissa's Project is the signature program of Guardian ad Litem Services, Inc.