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Behavioral Health Champion: Paul Rains

We’ve brought you 10 Behavioral Health Champion interviews since August – all state lawmakers or Administration leaders. Now, we’re bringing you the stories of five leaders in the behavioral health space.

  • Background: The California Hospital Association gathered five hospital executives to discuss their personal stories at their Behavioral Health Symposium last year.

This week’s Behavioral Health Champion is Paul Rains, President of St. Joseph’s Behavioral Health Center.

Feeling the stigma: “I’m a little bit nervous about this. We talk about stigma and we talk about how willing are we to throw up our hands and admit that we have a history. And quite frankly part of that is because even in the medical profession, there are those in the medical profession that don’t understand what it is that we do.”  

His story: “At an early age I sought to self medicate. And I got into things pretty hard and deep and left home at 15 years old. [I] was going to show my parents and the world that I could do this and I could make it on my own.. I spent a number of years doing that thing where, at around age 28 or so, I was living in my car. I was pretty much homeless. I had run everybody out of my life that had mattered, family.

From experience to profession: “I can tell you that I’ve been clean and sober since August 25th, 1988. And that path led me down … I worked for six years in a substance abuse treatment center. It was there that I decided that I wanted to go back to school. I was reading an article in New England Journal of Medicine about how there wasn’t enough folks in the mental health profession that had experience, that had that background… So I started going down the path.”

“I think about how very easily society discards folks with mental illness and substance use disorders. We pass value judgments on them. Even even those of us in the medical field oftentimes can get exasperated with patients that we’ve worked with. And always bringing it back to remembering that we can’t throw these people away. We don’t know who we’re dealing with. I think about that I was almost thrown away. And if it hadn’t been for some very fortuitous events that happened in my life, and some very generous people that reached out to help me when I couldn’t help myself.”

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