PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Following the recent opening of A New Start, a mental health and targeted case management practice in Houlton, owner Tricia Bragan is hoping to make a difference in people’s lives by beginning a new chapter for the Presque Isle location.
Bragan, who lives in Presque Isle, previously rented office spaces in Houlton and Presque Isle for both locations of A New Start, but decided that purchasing permanent spaces would allow her practice to grow and serve more folks in Aroostook County.
While the Houlton office is located at the historic Blackhawk Putnam building at 22 North St., she and several other staff members have since made themselves at home at 24 Industrial St. in Presque Isle.
Currently the space consists of offices for case managers and a children’s therapist. Bragan hopes to add on office space and a conference room to the building next year.
But for now she and staff have worked to make the building feel like a home away from home for clients, with colorful flowers and garden signs adorning the area near the building’s front entrance.
“We wanted the place to look welcoming so that families feel safe and secure when they come here,” Bragan said. “It’s really a family atmosphere.”
A New Starts provides case management and therapy services to adults and children, with more than 100 clients thus far, all of whom are required to be eligible for MaineCare.
Within children’s case management, staff members often work with families whose children have autism or other disabilities and help link them to various community services. Adult services include medication management and outpatient mental health therapy.
Before becoming a case manager Bragan taught at various schools in Aroostook County for 14 years, teaching at Aroostook County Action Program’s Head Start and then middle and high school science. She pursued a career in case management as a way to help others in her community and previously worked at Life By Design.
“I’ve always loved working with children,” Bragan said.
A New Start will host an open house for their Presque Isle location 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17. The day will include face painting, a bounce house, games, a barbecue lunch and tours of the facility.
During the open house, Bragan will launch Nan’s Closet, a clothing and household item drive in memory of her mother Patricia Foster, known to her grandchildren as “Nan.” The items will go toward families who regularly struggle financially to provide basic necessities due to transitioning from homelessness to public housing, poverty or other difficult circumstances.
On Aug. 17, Nan’s Closet will only accept new items such as pots, pans, laundry detergent, soap, toilet paper, towels and small kitchen appliances, including toasters and microwaves. After that date they will begin to accept used items. Bragan hopes that as A New Start expands she can add on a storage building for furniture.
“My mother was always the type of person who would give extra clothing to those who needed it,” Bragan said. “Nan’s Closet is a way to help families fill in the gaps of what they can’t afford and meet their basic needs.”
A New Start will also collaborate with the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office for the Wanderer’s Program. The program lists the physical descriptions and emergency contact information for children with autism, many of whom are nonverbal, into a database in case a child were to disappear or be involved in a first responder’s visit to a home.
People can sign up for the Wanderer’s Program at the open house or contact A New Start at (207) 551-3061 or the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office at (207) 532-3471.
“It truly takes a village to raise a child, so I want to give back to the community whenever I could,” Bragan said. “I’d like to spend the rest of my life giving back.”