Expanding Through Education
“I really enjoy what I do. I like working with clients, so I really wanted to expand my role. With psychiatric nursing, there’s a lot more interaction with patients.”
Each year, the Oaklawn Foundation raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local mental health and addiction treatment. Much of that funding supports community prevention programs, capital improvements and gap funding for medication and other immediate needs.
But over the past five years, the Foundation has invested nearly $115,000 in its own employees – funding competitive educational grants for outstanding staff pursuing degrees in priority areas. The funds have helped 29 people since 2014, with many now serving as nurse practitioners, therapists, addictions counselors and treatment team leaders.
“This is one of my personal favorite things we do as a Foundation,” said Executive Director Matt Lentsch. “It’s very rewarding to help others grow personally and professionally as they go back to school, but also to help serve our community through expanding our capacity.”
Years ago, the Foundation provided smaller grants of a few hundred dollars to nearly everyone who applied, he said. About five years ago, the Foundation restructured the program to give larger awards to those whose degrees align with the organization’s needs. A committee sets the priority areas each year, and some common needs include prescribers, MSWs, bilingual treatment providers and addictions counselors.
More prescribers can expand access and reduce wait times, said Betsy Brown, one of this year’s recipients, who is pursuing her Master of Science in Nursing and will become a nurse practitioner.
“I really enjoy what I do. I like working with clients, so I really wanted to expand my role,” she said. “With psychiatric nursing, there’s a lot more interaction with patients.”
Brown has been a nursing team leader in the Goshen outpatient office for three and a half years and worked at Oaklawn previously as a PRN nurse with intensive services. The grant not only helps offset the cost of school but also helps her feel supported and affirms that she belongs here, she said.
Adrienne Sailor, another recipient this year, is pursuing her Master of Social Work degree and has worked at Oaklawn for almost 12 years, first as an MHT then a care facilitator. Adrienne is now a team leader for care facilitators at Oaklawn, The Children’s Campus. The degree will enhance her ability to serve in that role and open the door to more possibilities for the future.
“I just love what we do,” Adrienne said. “I love our mission. I love that Oaklawn is a place where you’re able to grow and expand your wings.”
This year’s recipients are:
- Adrienne Sailor, care facilitation team leader, intensive services, MSW
- Elizabeth Brown, nursing team leader, Goshen outpatient clinical services, MSN
- Emily Schrock, administrative assistant, Elkhart C&A outpatient, MSW
- Erica Unzicker, team leader, Elkhart adult case management, MSW
- Maria Stuart, STAND advisor, South Bend, MSW
- Heather Robinson, skills trainer, Goshen adult case management, MSW
- Ann Wasikowski, care facilitator, South Bend adult case management, MSW
- Kayla Bowden, care facilitator, South Bend adult case management, BSN