Veronica Dietz has been with the Carroll County Health Department since February 2014, and been director of crisis services since the spring of 2016. Her job includes overseeing the county’s Mobile Crisis Team, a group that’s tasked with helping folks in mental health- or substance abuse-related crises.
She also oversees the county’s reentry program, where case workers help individuals leaving incarceration integrate back to society. The Times spoke with Dietz about her work, what it’s like to work with people who are going through tough times, and how she and her staff keep themselves sane.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What is a typical day like in your job?
A: In my job, it depends on the day. This morning for example, I had a crisis intervention training refresher. I had to go to the training center, I meet with 10 to 15 of our officers and did additional training. We discuss our program, how we can make it better.
In 2018, Carroll County will have a new, mobile crisis unit for helping people in a mental health or substance abuse-related crisis. The crises serve will consist of a team of licensed social workers and peer counselors.
Q: What is it that you like about living and working in Carroll County?
A: This is primarily where I’ve grown up. I moved here when I was about in eighth grade, I think. I’ve lived here most of my young adult life, and I now have a family that I’m raising here. It’s one of the safest counties, its one of the most beautiful counties. I have a vested interest in ensuring that the services of our county are what we need, because I’m also a member of the community.
Q: In your work, you deal with people who are, by definition, in crisis. How do you and your team cope with that sort of thing, when you’re working with people who are going through the worst day or days of their life?
A: I definitely think the work can be difficult. When we’re looking at the highest increase in the state of fatal overdoses … that’s a difficult to swallow.
Our primary function is to help people get into recovery, help people get that journey, so when we know more people are dying … that can be very draining. When all you’re dealing with is overdose and death, that can be very difficult.
We talk a lot about self-care. It’s not just for the people we’re looking to help, it’s for all of us.
We encourage our staff to take care of themselves. If you need it, are you utilizing therapy? Are you taking wellness days? There are a lot of things we do.
Q: Are there certain aspects that are particularly challenging?
A: We’ve had several staff people lose clients that they’ve worked with. To deal with that, we have times where we get together and we process and we talk, and we talk about how that feels, what that looks like. We’re really lucky and blessed to have our bosses focus on self care. They themselves know how to take care of themselves, and they encourage us as a staff to do the same.
Q: What can the community at large do to make your job easier?
A: I don’t think any of us are looking for our lives to be made easier. I think we recognize that we’re tackling problems that are difficult ones. One of the things we have to focus on is reducing stigma in the community.
People in our community don’t reach out and get help because of fear, or the association that will be connected to them if they get treatment or mental health services. If we can tackle stigma, I think we’ll really see some improvement, and see people reach out and get help, and see people really be their healthiest selves. That’s what we liked to see change, a reduction in stigma.
Q: What do you do, personally, for the kind of self-care that you and your staff practice?