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Staff Spotlight: Welcome Chris Saito to AHP!

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Chris Saito, our newest Substance Use Disorder Counselor on staff!

While he was waiting in the lobby at AHP, social worker Chris Saito ran into a former client who excitedly asked, “What are you doing here?” After hearing that Saito had a job interview, the client exclaimed, “Everyone here is so caring and committed—you will fit in perfectly at AHP.”

As a student at the University of California, Davis, Saito says he switched his major “at least 20 times.” But he knew early on that he wanted to help people, and while in college, he began volunteering at a mental health rehabilitation facility for seniors. After graduation, from 2003-2006, Saito worked at a mental health residential center for people under 65, where he directly observed the dramatic impact the team’s mental health interventions had on the well-being of his clients. He really became excited when he realized that intervening early in a person’s life made a difference. By the time Saito got to AHP, he had also worked in intensive treatment and foster care for kids with severe emotional problems. The experience, intense and challenging, confirmed to him that he was in the right profession.

In 2008, Saito became a crisis counselor at Dore Mental Health Residence, where he was quickly promoted to the Assistant Director of La Amistad, a 90-day mental health facility. Over two years, Saito’s natural humanity, with his passion to help, resulted in his unwavering advocacy for homeless people, “We have to take the time to look them in their eyes—because when you do that, you see the good in people. You are reminded that we are all the same.”

During his time at La Amistad, Saito also became engaged—he said he felt “privileged”—with his work in the Latino community, La Amistad’s main population. From 2012-2014, Saito became the Assistant Director at La Amistad, but he soon realized that he missed the daily client contact. Following his heart back to his clients, he returned to being a crisis counselor. At the end of 2015, fortunately for us, Saito applied for a job at AHP because he wanted to work with a group of thoughtful, respected providers whose place in the mental health community is so prominent.

As a Substance Use Disorder Counselor, Saito said he is looking forward to working with clients over the long-term, rather than just in times of crisis, as he had at Dore. “I understand the challenge of achieving longevity in health,” he said, adding that, nonetheless, it is all new to him. Still, he’s grateful to start this new learning process here at AHP, and we’re grateful he is here. That’s what makes it AHP: staff and managers who are committed to teaching and learning from each other, and from our clients and community.