Making a Difference for Young People in Northern California

Making a Difference for Young People in Northern California

As 2020 draws to a close, teens and young adults are experiencing historically high levels of trauma, anxiety, and depression. In California, close to one in 10 teens had a major depressive episode this year, and 140,000 adolescents in the state suffered from substance abuse disorder. As a result, awareness of mental health challenges and treatment options is increasing dramatically—inspiring more individuals to pursue careers in the behavioral healthcare industry.

“We are all going through trauma right now, and we all know someone who is struggling—it’s not ‘other people,’ it’s close to home,” says Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD, Newport Healthcare’s Executive Director in Northern California. “Individuals who might not have considered working in this field are now finding themselves drawn to it, because it’s a meaningful and tangible way to make a positive difference.”

At a time when most industries have laid off employees or suspending hiring, the mental healthcare industry has actually sped up hiring, as the need continues to increase. According to Mental Health America’s annual state rankings, 64 percent of California teens with depression received no care at all. This is the right moment for people who are passionate about helping others to enter the field, says Dr. Dragonette.

With six residential locations in the Northern California region, Newport Healthcare is committed to providing the highest-quality care for young people and their parents during this time of crisis. The foundation of our comprehensive treatment programs is our caring, compassionate staff. From care coordinators, program managers, licensed clinicians, pre-licensed mental health counselors, to experiential therapists, leadership, and admissions experts, our team shares a dedication to our mission to empower lives and restore families.

A Model of Care That Supports Both Clients and Staff

At Newport Academy, we treat adolescents ages 12–18, and at Newport Institute we work with young adults ages 18–28. Both service lines are grounded in a clinical model of care that has yielded industry-leading outcomes. We treat the underlying trauma and attachment disorders that catalyze anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other co-occurring disorders, utilizing a primary mental health approach that is both integrated and integrative. Our philosophy of care views authentic connection—with self, others, and community—as a key element in sustainable healing.

Those connections are cultivated through modalities that support well-being at every level—emotional, mental, relational, physical, and spiritual. In Northern California, clients receive tailored treatment that includes psychotherapeutic clinical modalities as well as experiential therapies such as yoga, movement classes, acupuncture, art therapy, music therapy, Equine-Assisted Therapy, and Adventure Therapy in awe-inspiring natural surroundings.

In addition, staff receive the benefits of these experiences as well, with ongoing opportunities to participate in activities while modeling collaboration and engagement.

“Having all of these modalities available not only gives us the ability to customize care to the clients’ individual needs, it also helps staff to maintain their own self-care,” Dr. Dragonette says. “Because our focus is always on wellness, it’s a constant reminder for us as well, and it helps so much to have the ability to participate in yoga, spend time outdoors, and eat great meals prepared by our chef. These are tough jobs that are emotionally taxing, so we need to always be putting something back in the tank.”

As a clinician and provider, Newport is the first place I’ve ever worked where I believe in our clinical model 100 percent.

Dr. Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD, Newport Executive Director in Northern California

Where Nature Is Nurturing

Our residences and outpatient locations for young people in Northern California are housed in spacious, comfortable homes in gorgeous natural settings—rugged canyons, redwood forests, and rolling meadows, with striking vistas, like the view of Mount Tamalpais from our Marin County campus.

“We want our facilities to be places where people are happy to come to work, where it feels healing, comfortable, and beautiful,” Dr. Dragonette says. “All of our facilities were homes at one time and still feel like homes, and we have lots of outdoor programming so there’s access to the outdoors in all locations.”

In outdoor activities and Adventure Therapy sessions, staff and clients hike in the redwoods, take surfing lessons, go ziplining, play basketball, do kickboxing, and more.

“Having staff involved in these experiences encourages clients to participate and supports bonding between clients and staff,” Dr. Dragonette says. “When a teen sees their care coordinator overcoming their own fear of heights, for example, they’re more willing to push their own limits.”

Collaboration, Training, and Advancement  

At each location, the team maintains close communication, with a “daily huddle,” monthly all-staff meetings, and regular staff trainings focusing on current trends and issues in the field. Holiday parties, alumni get-togethers, and bowling and pizza nights also keep the team connected.

“We have a really strongly bonded multidisciplinary team, which means that direct care staff work closely with nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, dieticians, therapists, teachers, chefs—they’re not just passing each other in the hallways,” Dr. Dragonette says. “Many of our direct care staff go on to become counselors or leaders within our operations teams. We place great value on promoting from within our team whenever possible, and many of our entry-level staff are promoted within months or years of joining us.”

There’s also flexibility between locations, so a staff member might be promoted to an open position at another facility, or can request a transfer to another campus. Newport also offers generous parental and family leave.

To support employees’ continuing education, Newport offers tuition reimbursement and pay raises for certifications and degrees, as well as extensive on-the-job training. “We coach and guide you as you’re figuring out which aspect of the field is right for you, and at the same time you’re making a difference for the clients you’re working with,” Dr. Dragonette explains.

A Career That Changes Lives

Ultimately, that knowledge is what makes this work so fulfilling and meaningful, she says.

“I won’t mince words—it’s a hard job, and with that comes a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day, knowing that you’ve done meaningful work and made a lasting impact in the lives of our clients,” she says.

“In our daily huddles, we share what we’ve heard from our alumni and parents, and it’s always so joyful when we get wonderful messages of gratitude from our former clients and their families. When you work as hard as our team works with clients who often feel like everyone’s given up on them, and you start to see the shift happen, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Explore a fulfilling career in Northern California.