Meet a Unity Center employee: Brittany Howell, referral and intake specialist

September 18, 2020

Tell us about your career in health care.

I’ve been in this field for about for four years. I started at a children’s mental health facility doing admissions. I’ve been a Unity Center for nearly a year.

What does your job entail?

I am part of the referral and intake specialist team. I work with the social workers on the inpatient adult units. I coordinate care so the social workers have more time on the floor working directly with patients and their families.

Can you go into greater detail about what it means to “coordinate care?”

Yes, I do a lot of work to prepare people for getting out the hospital and advocate for the resources they need. I make appointments for them, schedule transportation, make sure they have a way to get their medications. These might sound like simple tasks, but they can often be really challenging and time consuming. If the social worker had to do it, they would have less time with the patient. If the patient had to do it, they might simply give up because the processes can be confusing and difficult for anyone, let alone some in crisis.

What do you find rewarding about your work?

You may hear people talk about “barriers” in the mental health system. It’s my job to help break down those barriers. Recently, I helped a young person who had braces that were poking them in the mouth, causing a great deal of discomfort. I spent four hours talking with the insurance company and calling facilities to get them an appointment. Someone who doesn’t know how to work the barriers would just throw their hands up in frustration, but we had to get the appointment so the transition from Unity didn’t include dental pain on top of everything else.

What else should we know about your job?

We frequently hear from patients that there aren’t enough resources in the community. They’re on waitlists for therapy, sometimes for six months or more. Waiting can make their mental symptoms worse. We often see people who are having a hard time getting their medications filled because they can’t get established with primary care. There are so many different systems at play with who comes here and who goes. Between legal aspects and the availability of resources in the community, I feel very strongly that we are doing great work with what we’ve got.