Spotlight: AB 109 and Alcohol and Drug Treatment Coordinator, Rosie Murillo, whose dedication to client wellbeing translates to impact
Rosie Murillo works as a Mental Health Client Specialist through the county. She primarily works with the AB 109 population of Santa Cruz County by assisting them in their drug and alcohol treatment programs. Rosie is described by her clients as someone who is truly dedicated and makes a real difference in people’s lives.
Rosie Murillo grew up in Weslaco, Texas with her family of nine and later moved to Watsonville, California when she began the 2nd grade. When asked about the origins of her inspiration to pursue her current line of work, she gives a large amount of credit to the actions of her parents. Murillo’s mother played a vital role in influencing Murillo’s future career with her community oriented outlook. She recalls that her mother would engage in various community focused activities ranging from passing out lunches to the neighborhood’s homeless population to watching the children of other families while their parents were at work. Murillo even remembers an instance when her mother took in a child for five years while the child’s parent was getting their life back on track. Murillo’s father influenced her greatly because of his refusal to give up what he loved. With this combination of her mother’s community driven outlook and her father’s passion, Murillo was sent on a path that fueled her want and desire to help those whom she loves, and those within her community.
Murillo first began her line of work in the community by helping assist friends, family, and loved ones dealing with alcohol abuse. Finding the proper treatment for them was incredibly important to Murillo. Her approach was not to try and force people to change, but rather to determine ways to empower and motivate them to change on their own. Some examples of Murillo helping with this discovery of self empowerment included taking individuals to community events, or even leaving brochures ranging from domestic violence to substance abuse around their homes. She says that her ultimate goal was to help those who did not know how to ask for help and to start the conversations about such topics within the community. An example of getting the community conversation started can be seen with her early work volunteering at a farm workers clinics, where many of the clients expressed that alcohol was important to them and that it would ease the pain of a hard day's work.
Today, Murillo works as a “Mental Health Client Specialist,” though she refers to herself as a “Service Coordinator.” Murillo has been working in alcohol and drug programs for the past 30 years. And as of June 2017, she will have worked in Santa Cruz county for 17 years. She began this work when many of the drug and alcohol support programs in operation today were non-existent. The population she works with today is primarily the AB 109 population who, Murillo stated several times, she absolutely loves to work with (For more information about the AB 109 population and the program’s impact within Santa Cruz County, visit http://bit.ly/2rwqVWn).
Murillo currently works through the Santa Cruz County probation department and her work with the AB 109 population includes receiving referrals for inmates from the local Santa Cruz county jails and the Watsonville Roundtree facility (a rehabilitation and reentry facility). Once a referral has been sent, Murillo then conducts an assessment and interview with the client in order to determine the level of care and support needed for treatment. The range of treatment options for clients range from community support to housing in a sober living environment. Murillo loves working with this program because of how much assistance it provides to those who enter into it.
When asked what the highlight of her career has been, there was a loss for words because she said that there were too many positive impacts and highlights to think of but she narrowed the plethora of highlights to a concept that she says is the reason she loves to get up and go to work every morning. Murillo’s biggest highlight was expressed through a client whom she helped while Murillo was working in Monterey County. This individual is now leading their own assistance program. They and Murillo still speak every so often and Murillo says that this client always says “thank you.” To Murillo, this thank you means more than a "thank you" for the assistance provided, but a "thank you" for giving the the client their own way to find themselves. Murillo believes that this is the most important thing that her clients need. Her objective in helping people empower themselves, from when she first started helping her friends and community members, has been unwavering during her 30 years in this line of work.
Looking to the future, Murillo appears to have no plans of slowing down. She is currently of retirement age and tells herself that maybe she’ll retire in a few years, but has been telling herself that for several years already now. Murillo plans to continue in her father’s footsteps and never stop doing what she loves because according to Murillo, addiction will always be around unless that vicious cycle is broken. Even if she does eventually choose to take the path of retirement, Murillo says that she will likely spend her time volunteering at one of the many local Santa Cruz County organizations that treat and work with members of the community suffering from substance use disorder.
About the Author: Leyland Reid is a UCSC student and United Way of Santa Cruz County Intern.