Janelle Jones ’11, OT ’14 goes out of her way to make sure she’s part of the team offering suggestions for her patients’ future care.
Janelle Jones ’11, OT ’14 spends her days helping people find the way to a new life.
As an occupational therapist at Oregon State Hospital, Jones works in the state-run psychiatric hospital’s Bridges program. That means she works primarily with individuals who have been found guilty-except-for-insanity in a criminal case and who are now preparing to transition out of a hospital setting.
“I love being able to provide hope for people who don’t have control of what they face, of the stigmas, the fear people have with people in regards to mental health,” she said.
Her primary role is to lead group sessions to help patients prepare for independent living, either in a secure or unsecured group home and eventually on their own.
Patients are required to participate in four hours of treatment every day, but they can choose their activities from a host of offerings.
Jones has offered stress management, leisure activities without drugs and alcohol, and pain management without medication. She’s done cooking groups, money management, mindfulness, chair yoga.
She takes groups into the community to work on independent living skills: shopping on a budget, identifying community services, or just getting around.
“I take patients on public transportation, because the reality is that when they leave, they are not going to be able to afford a car,” Jones said. “I show them what’s out there, show them resources in the community. We go to the DMV, DD Services. I get to take patients to (Narcotics Anonymous) in the community.”
“I want to support that people can change and live safely.”
In her unit at the hospital, occupational therapists aren’t required to be part of the interprofessional team that coordinates patient care. But Jones chooses to participate anyway.
Each morning, she starts her day with a team including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, nurse and rehab therapist. They talk about each of the 20-or-so patients in their care. The full team also meets with each patient individually about four times a year.
“I could just lead groups and do assessments, but I want to be connected,” Jones said. “That interprofessional experience is so much more powerful than being on your own.”
As part of the team, she can provide valuable insight, especially as a patient may be approaching the possibility of discharge.
“Because we get to spend so much time with patients, we have a lot to provide the team,” she said. “The nurse sees a lot of behavior because they’re on the unit, but they don’t go out in the community and see how a patient acts. I get to provide a lot of information.”
Jones is passionate about helping people find tools for healthy, independent living, perhaps because of her own family experiences, including her brother’s bipolar disorder, which has placed him in the Oregon State Hospital in the past.
She knows that the release of people who have committed crimes into the community can be hard for many people to accept. But she also knows the impact that healthcare and education can make in people’s lives.
“It’s a hard topic and a fine line. When I have a family, I want them safe. But, as an advocate for mental health, I want to support that people can change and live safely,” she said.
“When my brother has an episode, he is not himself. But I would never support him being in an institution for 30 years,” she said.
“Some people here, when I read about their crimes, I can’t believe it. They have changed. They no longer experience psychosis, no longer use drugs and alcohol. They’re incredible people.
“If they continue what they’re doing here, those crimes aren’t going to happen again.”