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One of the aspects of her job that Nancy Merrill, PMHCNS, BC, appreciates the most is that she’s never in one place for too long. As program director of McLean’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program (ADATP), Merrill finds herself often visiting one of McLean’s off-campus sites, traveling to a conference, overseeing the inpatient and partial hospital programs, participating in a research project, serving on a committee, or being tapped to launch a new initiative.
For the past 20 years, Merrill has been instrumental in helping to launch a multitude of new initiatives for the hospital, including the development of Fernside in Princeton, Massachusetts, the Ambulatory Treatment Center at Naukeag in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, the LEADER (Law Enforcement, Active Duty, Emergency Responder) program, which provides specialized mental health and addictions services for police, active-duty military and other first responders, and most recently, Borden Cottage in Camden, Maine.
“What’s most rewarding about my job,” she said, “is that it’s so multifaceted and I really like the people I work with. There’s something different every day.” While she is involved in a number of projects at any given time, her primary responsibility is to oversee all of the program directors within the ADATP, traveling to each satellite community every two weeks.
Being in a leadership role, Merrill said, allows her to draw from 38 years experience in the field and combine both her clinical and managerial skills to bring together the right people for delivering the best treatment for patients who are in recovery.
“My job is to get each program up and staffed, along with developing the treatment philosophy for the clinicians,” said Merrill. “We also consistently re-evaluate our programs. We are always analyzing data to make sure that we are providing the most comprehensive treatment possible for our patients.”
Starting her career as a nurse and segueing into managerial roles was a natural career path for Merrill. After completing graduate school, she was employed at North Suffolk Mental Health Association where she learned about treatment for substance abuse and decided she wanted to provide help for those struggling with addiction. She was drawn to McLean, she said, because it was known for its advancements and clinical expertise. She accepted a managerial position in the ADATP in 1995 and has been helping the program evolve ever since.
She also acts as the “ambassador” for the hospital, traveling to national conferences throughout the year to inform organizations about McLean’s programs. It’s also a great opportunity, she said, to learn about other facilities and programs available throughout the country so that she and her staff are knowledgeable about the best options when making referrals.
Merrill’s additional roles include working with McLean departments and committees to continually enhance services across the hospital. She is part of McLean’s Nursing Social Work Research Committee, the Human Resources Policy-Setting Committee, the Leadership Council, and is co-chair of the Patient Care Support Committee. She also runs a small private practice at McLean, specializing in the treatment of patients and families with addictive issues.
She considers herself fortunate to be part of a program that makes such a huge impact on helping others—seeing patients come out of a program that she helped design and doing well. “There’s a lot of judgment and stigma attached to people struggling with mental illnesses, particularly addiction,” she said. “It’s important to continually educate the public to help reduce the stigma attached with drug and alcohol abuse.”
Merrill is particularly excited about the opening of Borden Cottage since she is often asked by other organizations about expanding McLean’s programs nationally. “As a team,” she said, “we are very excited to have the opportunity to take McLean’s knowledge and expertise and replicate it in another area.”