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Christine Menager

"I had a chaotic childhood," says Christine Menager, whose mother died when she was two. Her father, a rural veterinarian outside Paris, moved her and her brother to his parents' farm in Normandie. "I was a high-school dropout, a pregnant teenager," says Menager, who got married at 17 and had two kids before divorcing her abusive husband. "He had a lawyer and kept the children." She went to nursing school in Paris, worked at a psychiatric hospital and began to study psychology, then ran off to California with a guy she met in Greece. "I learned English for a year," she reports, "and I aced the state nursing exam." She worked evening shift at a psychiatric hospital in Berkeley for seven years while earning a bachelors in social welfare from Cal and a masters in mental health nursing from UCSF. In 1994, she moved to rural Lane County and found work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner at South Lane Mental Health, a small non-profit agency in Cottage Grove, just as the state was closing mental hospitals. "They needed someone to prescribe psychiatric medications," says Menager, who will retire after 19 years at the end of March. "It's a lot cheaper to provide care in the community, compared to locking people up. It's not just about meds. It's been my life's work to understand the context of people's lives and help them access the services they need."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 14 February 2013

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