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PattyKilloranAlexisDonnarummaPosted by Patty Killoran (left) and Alexis Donnaruma, interns in the Primary Care Office at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

This is another in a series of profiles of health care professionals who have benefited from the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP). The MLRP works to increase access to comprehensive primary care in underserved areas, by providing up to $50,000 towards outstanding educational loans for health professionals who commit to work at an eligible health care organization for two full-time years or four half-time years.      

Meaghan Dupuis works with one of the state’s most underserved populations at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Concord (MCI-Concord), the oldest operating state prison for men in Massachusetts. Meaghan, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, started as a clinician at the facility five years ago. Today she is their mental health director. Meaghan and her clinical team regularly see between 250 and 275 of the 1300 incarcerated men living with mental illnesses at MCI-Concord.  Most of Meaghan’s clients never received adequate preventive or mental health services prior to incarceration.

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There’s no such thing as a “typical workday” at the facility, according to Meaghan. “We work on a multitude of processes and procedures,” she says, “from receiving individuals, to re-compensating them, making sure they are back on their medications, providing ongoing treatment, and planning for their release.” Along with seeing a routine case load, clinicians at MCI-Concord work in crisis management and stabilization.

“Working at MCI-Concord can be frustrating and challenging, since this is a very demanding population,” Meaghan says, “but the times that are rewarding outweigh the ones that are frustrating.”

Indeed, for Meaghan it’s these challenges that make her work fulfilling and professionally rewarding.  “A lot of these men and women have had difficult lives from the start and haven’t been given the same opportunities as other people,” she reflected.  Meaghan’s professional development has been enriched and her clinical skills enhanced by having the opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of mental illnesses. Over the course of ongoing treatment, Meaghan is able to earn her patients' trust — allowing them to experience the benefits of therapy and make real, sustainable and positive changes in their lives.

Meaghan feels at home in her field. “Clinicians and social workers enter this field and work with these individuals because they want to help; they want to make change from a grassroots level,” she told us.

Like so many individuals drawn to the helping professions, Meaghan grappled with finding a way to pay for the school loans that would help her achieve her professional goals. A colleague mentioned that she should apply to the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP). She applied and was accepted into the program this past December.

Meaghan reports that she has had a positive experience with the MLRP and has encouraged her colleagues to apply. ”The MLRP  is a great tool to recruit and retain staff,” she told us.

In her own life, participating in the MLRP has helped to relieve the financial burden of school loans, allowing Meaghan to focus on her job and the passion she brings to it without having to worry about taking on a second job.

“It’s a great opportunity to do the work that we do and to help the people that truly, truly need it: the most mentally ill, the most rejected from society, those who others have turned their backs on,” Meaghan says. “This is good work, it needs to be done, and when you have the passion to make change and to really pursue it–while getting school loans repaid in the process–it is such a fully rewarding experience.”

For more information on the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program, click here.

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