Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester
BY LIISA RAJALA –
For 33 years, Patricia Carty has impacted countless lives in the greater Manchester area with her unparalleled care.
After graduating with a degree in psychology from the University of Vermont, Carty joined the team at The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, where she has spent the entirety of her career, getting involved at every level of the center’s operations.
From building the Mobile Crisis Response Team to developing the Manchester Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Training program, Carty has expanded community relationships to better serve individuals dealing with mental illness and substance abuse, reducing hospitalizations by up to 94 percent.
With each initiative, on call, day or night, it is Carty who has grown the center’s abilities to serve the community, all the while working hand-in-hand with clients in treatment.
Q. How has working at The Mental Health Center changed your perspective on mental illness and how we as a society can address it?
A. When I came to the Mental Health Center, my view of mental health and the work I was going to do was fairly simple: I was going to contribute by helping people who were marginalized and disadvantaged. What I’ve come to understand is if you really want to achieve a great deal, you can’t do it by yourself, whether you’re an individual or an organization. If you really want to create transformation and change, you have to partner with other organizations and have a community responsibility to the health of your community in all aspects, whether medical, mental health issues, poverty, childhood adverse events. It really has to be done as a collective and we see positive outcomes when we’re able to do that.
Q. What has enabled you to rise in the ranks at The Mental Health Center?
A.There is a culture here at the Mental Health Center that really fosters the ability to experience new opportunities, so as an employee you always feel you have the opportunity to enhance your skill level and try something different. Sometimes when we have research projects, some of our medical staff are able to be part of the primary investigative team. I was part of the research early on as a psychiatric coordinator and, in another job, I said to my supervisor, ‘I’ll take it on in addition to what I’m doing,’ and those opportunities come around to folks to extend themselves in different ways. I’ve gotten advanced trainings that have been satisfying for me and I think that’s always important for staff — having a culture where improving yourself and having the opportunity overtime to really work with leaders who were willing to teach you things that weren’t necessarily things that were in your job day to day.
Q. Are there any particular challenges women face in the behavioral health field?
A. The behavioral health field it is mostly female dominated. When I look around this organization, there are certainly way more women than there are men, and yet we as an organization have never had a female CEO. Education is incredibly important in this field and ensuring you are getting degrees in areas that are marketable and are license eligible. We encourage additional education so we have a really rich tuition reimbursement program and we are encouraging our staff to get advanced degrees. I also think there’s an issue of demonstrating leadership. If it’s an area you see yourself, it can happen right in the beginning. We all have the opportunity to be a leader, even in the context of the role we have. Early on I was someone who was much more of an observer and fairly quiet, and I think that it took me a while to really find my voice and to feel confident.
Q. What advice do you have for young women just starting their careers?
A. Our experiences shape us and depending on your work environment, you’re going to play out some of those [scenarios] initially. I’m Columbian and I grew up with a very traditional upbringing in that my dad was the decision-maker, he was the person who spoke for my mom and spoke for my family and there was a lot of times you did not respond. Conflict and speaking up will cause anxiety — you may not practice these things and it might not come naturally. These are things we can overcome and we have the power to allow us to do things to accomplish our goals and some of those things are very much based in effective communication and good interpersonal relationships, establishing a level of respect and confidence and competence too.