For many years, Housing Works has been active in the community through our fierce advocacy, awesome thrift shops, as well as our ever-popular lower Manhattan Bookstore/Café. Less visible to the public eye are our health centers offering critical and lifesaving services to low income New Yorkers, which our advocates fight for and our stores help fund. Behind even those health centers, are the passionate staff members that show up everyday to assist clients with their most difficult health and life circumstances. We spoke to Carlo Liggio, Psych NP at the Cylar House Behavioral Health Clinic, at our East Village health center, to discuss some of his day-to-day challenges, as well as what brings him back to work every single morning.
What do you do at Housing Works?
I’m a Psych NP (nurse practitioner) at the Cylar House Behavioral Health Clinic.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. I spent 24 years in Miami. That’s where I trained and was in a private practice there for a number of years. Then I came back to New York about three years ago. I heard about Housing Works, put in my application came on board as a temp last December. Now I’m full-time.
How long have you been in this field?
I’ve been a nurse since 1972, and in that time, I’ve done a lot. I’ve worked trauma, I’ve worked open heart, I’ve worked ER, as well as psych as a nurse. I actually really went back to school late. I finished my NP training when I was 46 years old, and I’m 61 now.
You really don’t look it.
I’m a long distance runner, and I take care of myself.
What did you do before becoming a nurse?
Ever since I’ve been an NP, prior to that, I was a clinical administrator at Jackson Memorial Hospital, the second biggest hospital in the country. By the time I came into my NP training, I already knew this was for me. It was just a matter of formality.
What is your degree in?
I have a Masters in Nursing as a Nurse Practitioner in Psych.
What do you enjoy about your work at Housing Works?
What I love about Housing Works is that we define the services and then provide the services that don’t exist elsewhere. At Housing Works, we have the elderly population, the 55 and over crowd. No one else is really providing healthcare for them—specifically psychiatry programs for the older person. Look at how many elderly find out they are HIV positive when they are in the hospital, and have full-blown AIDS and also have signs of dementia. That’s sadly the norm.
Then we have young minority populations that are not getting care. We have the transgender folks that are not getting the care that they need. There is so much that Housing Works is doing to support them.
What is one of the most difficult things about working in this field?
The HIV population that we work with is such a challenge, in the best sense of the word. They have so many other health issues, including substance use and mental health that often get overlooked. They are not getting quality care. The good news is that Housing Works is willing to address them, look at them, and provide that care. That’s the difference between us and the other providers out there.
What are the common health issues that you see?
I have patients coming in saying that they are depressed, and that they are anemic, or their thyroid was acting up. I ask them if they were taking their medications, and come to find out, they weren’t taking them properly. Sometimes all I have to remind them to do is take it with their food. This woman was taking it on an empty stomach, and was simultaneously being treated for cervical cancer with radiation. No one bothered to check to see what she was doing. So much of this type of stuff is going on unchecked.
Outside of doing this important work, what do you do in your leisure?
I’d rather talk about what I do at work than what I do for leisure. I’m very excited about my profession, and very involved.
You sound really passionate.
I am extremely passionate, and I love Housing Works because, as different as we may all be, I know we’re all here to work on one goal.
What’s one of the most difficult issues that you grapple with in your work?
The homelessness. How do you give care to a person when they don’t have a roof over their head?
You said earlier that there are not too many psychiatric programs geared towards the populations that Housing Works serves. Why is that?
The community of nurses in this field is really very small. You have to be good in general psychiatry. You’ve got to know geriatric, you’ve got to know general medicine, and then you have to know about HIV. We are so behind in research. Pharmaceutical companies are not taking it on because there’s no money in it, but as a consequence, the brain is not being treated.
What keeps you dedicated to the mental health field?
I do at least 80-100 credits of medical continuing education a year. Since I’ve been working here, I’ve been studying so much about HIV and I found out that we are really behind in understanding how to treat HIV depression, the cognitive dysfunctions in these specific populations. I checked on a woman who is transgender, who went to another clinic and they told her she’s got sexual identity crisis. She doesn’t have a sexual identity crisis. It’s not a disease. There’s still so much that needs to be done.blog comments powered by Disqus