Standing in the Gap

“Oaklawn promotes healing of the mind and enriches everyday lives in the community.”

Erica Ogden

South Bend

For more than 50 years, the Oaklawn Foundation for Mental Health has been serving the mission of Oaklawn and the needs of its clients. Most of this beneficence has come through charity care, capital improvement campaigns and, more recently, increased funding for prevention and early intervention programs for youth. But a portion of these funds are steadily used to meet the immediate needs of clients, particularly those in crisis.

“It’s hard for people to work on improving their life or symptoms of their illness when they don’t have their basic needs met,” said Cindy Schulz, who oversees Oaklawn’s adult case management services in South Bend. “The Foundation allows us to meet these basic needs immediately, so the client can begin working on improving their overall functioning.”

The clients her team serves can count on the Foundation for things like:

  • bus passes to make non-Oaklawn appointments or job interviews;
  • HIP premium payments so their health coverage doesn’t lapse;
  • medication for clients who don’t have insurance or are waiting for their benefits to take effect, and
  • replacement documents for clients applying for assistance programs or housing.

Thanks to a partnership with Goodwill, the Foundation is also able to provide Goodwill gift certificates to clients in need of new clothes or home goods.

Erica Ogden of South Bend received several Goodwill certificates from the Foundation when she moved into her apartment in February. Ogden had an apartment before, but had to give up most of her possessions about three years ago when she moved to Portage Manor, St. Joseph County’s residential care center.

As her symptoms improved and her illness became well-managed again, “I decided I needed to be independent and go into the community, so that’s what I did. I got my own apartment February 14.”

She used her gift certificates to buy some cookware and dishes. Cooking is one of the ways she stays healthy: “I love to cook, even though I can’t cook that well,” she jokes. “Oaklawn gave me a few [gift certificates]. I was thankful for that.”

The support clients receive from Oaklawn “allows them to work toward independence and a sense of dignity,” Schulz said. One of the unique advantages of the Foundation is that case managers can use it immediately. Case managers regularly connect clients with government and community resources to meet their needs, but it can be a lengthy process. “Having the ability to provide for these urgent needs gives the client a sense of hope,” she said.

It did for Ogden: “Oaklawn promotes healing of the mind and enriches everyday lives in the community.”

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