Lawson’s Leap of Faith Leads to a Fulfilling Life with ARMHS
Accra’s Mental Health program helped Lawson develop independent living skills and manage symptoms of mental illness.
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Eleven years ago, Lawson made a big life decision. Unsatisfied with the mental health care services and resources in his prior home of Northern Idaho, he determined it was time to move. Having never been to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Lawson ventured more than 1,000 miles east and settled in Duluth.
“I literally came with my suitcase on a plane because I knew that they had better mental health care services here,” Lawson said. “I got connected with ARMHS (Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services); they had similar services in Idaho, but it was a bit different here.”
The transition to a new community proved to be challenging, though.
“I was really struggling to be okay when I moved to Minnesota,” Lawson said. “I was put in a group home three times because I couldn’t take care of myself physically or mentally due to my depression and anxiety.”
After a few years of ups and downs in Duluth, Lawson found a new mental health provider, and the switch set him in the right direction.
With a new ARMHS practitioner by his side, Lawson built a rapport and gained more stability. Eight years into their relationship, Lawson’s mental health worker joined Accra, and the obvious decision for Lawson was to switch to Accra to stay with her.
“I started working with Accra because my provider transferred there and really liked it, so I followed her,” Lawson said. “We had a break for a little bit because I was leaving a group home and transitioning to live independently, but I ultimately found Accra, and I’ve been very happy with the care I’m getting.”
Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) are a relatively recent addition to Accra’s service line. Accra started its mental health services program in 2020 by offering ARMHS in St. Louis County, covering much of Minnesota’s Iron Range. Now Accra offers ARMHS throughout the Twin Cities’ seven-county metro area, as well as St. Louis County.
ARMHS helps clients manage symptoms of mental illness, develop independent living skills and lead a more fulfilling life at home. Supervised by mental health professionals, ARMHS practitioners teach clients how to connect with and leverage community resources and mental health services.
Lawson meets with his practitioner for two hours every week, sometimes all at once and other times they have two one-hour sessions on separate days. They meet on the phone or in person, depending on his needs.
Lawson’s ARMHS provider helps him develop coping skills and strategies for managing social anxiety. She also assists him with budgeting, managing medications, paying bills on time and creating shopping lists.
“A lot of it, too, is how I am doing in my relationship; I have a partner moving in. We also cover getting connected to services and making sure I have everything I need,” Lawson said.
Having received ARMHS for about a decade, Lawson knows firsthand how impactful the services can be.
“ARMHS was supporting me through the group home, all the way through transitioning in and out of group homes. It’s a great service,” Lawson said. “I don’t think I’d be as stable as I am without her help.”
Now living independently, Lawson is going after his dreams and staying very busy. He simultaneously works at the University of Minnesota while attending classes at the College of St. Scholastica so that one day he can help people like him.
“I want to be a social worker and eventually a therapist,” Lawson said. “It can be very stressful, which is why I really appreciate my ARMHS worker being there to help me cope with life stressors and deal with things that are going on in my life.”
As he pursues his education, Lawson and his ARMHS practitioner continue to work on his social anxiety and communication skills by meeting at a place of his choosing. It has had a profound impact on his mental health.
“I’m going out in the community, we meet at a coffee shop, and we work on coping skills,” Lawson said. “We talk about ways to do deep breathing, how to calm down or general coping skills around any anxiety that I’m feeling.”
Over many years, Lawson and his practitioner have built a solid patient-provider relationship, one that exemplifies trust and understanding.
“I feel like we’re on the same level, whereas sometimes I feel like a therapist is higher than you. We’re on the same wavelength,” Lawson said. “I really feel like we have a good relationship. I trust her; she’s reliable. I can count on her. When I struggle, she’s here to support me.”
Having someone proactively touching base and available to listen has also been a great boon for Lawson.
“Sometimes she calls me and says, ‘Hey Lawson, just checking in to see how you’re doing.’ I feel like she’s here for me,” Lawson said.
“I have so much appreciation for ARMHS. I really appreciate that it’s an option for people like me who have ongoing mental health issues; to have someone come into your home, support you and work with you in the community or on your goals around your illness.”
Most notably, since his provider joined Accra, Lawson has hit several milestones in his journey toward independence. He no longer needs a case worker and only requires two hours with his ARMHS provider weekly instead of four.
“I’ve had great, amazing help, and I’m really grateful I moved to Minnesota. I’ve come a long way. I don’t think I’d be alive if it weren’t for the support I’ve had,” Lawson said. “I came from being severely depressed and being in a group home, having a guardian, to having no guardian and no longer really struggling with my mental health. I’m a huge success story of where ARMHS can get you.”