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Catholic Charities Corporation Administrative Offices:

7911 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

(216) 334-2900

Catholic Charities FIRST Program - What is it?

Posted April 06, 2023

There are a lot of firsts in the world. Your first steps, your first job, your first time away from home, etc. But some people may experience a different type of “first” in their life.

Having an episode of psychosis (when one loses contact with external reality) can be very overwhelming and scary for people but at Catholic Charities, there is a program that can help.

The FIRST program helps treat those from ages 14 to 30 who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizophreniform disorder, and more.

Although there are other programs in the Cleveland area, Catholic Charities’ program is different.

“Currently we are the only program in Cuyahoga County that is a coordinated specialty care specifically for the early treatment of psychosis.” Clinical supervisor and FIRST team leader, Stacey Macek said.

There are multiple services within the FIRST Program for both families and individuals to educate themselves.

“We are a multi-disciplinary team and treatment,” Macek said, “We have family psychoeducation. We also, for the client specifically, have case management, individual counseling, nursing, psychiatry, peer support, supportive education, and supportive employment."

The team members involved with the FIRST program are not only professionals, some are people who have their own stories with psychosis.

“I have actually experienced an episode of psychosis and I’ve tried to use that experience of recovering from that episode to benefit others and to enhance their life and share my knowledge of recovery with them.” Peer support specialist Johnathan Clemente said.

Clemente first got started with this program by coming across a job opening for someone who had lived experience with mental illness or recovery from substance abuse.

“At the time, I was living on a therapeutic farm designed for people with serious mental illness and I was looking at different jobs,” Clemente said, “I thought it would be a perfect fit [the job] so I went ahead and applied and I interviewed and I was brought on the team.”

Asking for help may seem like a difficult thing to do but the team members of Catholic Charities’ FIRST program want potential new clients to know that they are not alone.

“I would encourage them to bear witness to the fact that we have a team of specialists that are caring and loving and that first step is critical,” Clemente said, “…my life has definitely improved from my willingness to participate in treatment and therapy and so I would encourage them to take the risk and step out on faith.”

For more information about the FIRST program please click the button below or call 216.339.1438.

FIRST Program

Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Part of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

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