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Patients learn life skills at OSH's Kirkbride Plaza


Recovery often includes more than just effectively treating a patient's illness. At Oregon State Hospital, part of the recovery process is also working with patients to give them the skills necessary for a successful transition from life at the hospital back to life in the community. With the recent opening of the hospital's Kirkbride Plaza, patients will now have even more opportunities to hone the life skills needed to help make this transition easier.

Edwina Ybarra bags the purchases of Jeanette Jensen

Edwina Ybarra, a patient at Oregon State Hospital, bags the purchases of patient Jeanette Jensen at the hospital's patient-run market. The market is part of the recently opened Kirkbride Plaza, which offers patients various opportunities to develop and practice life and vocational skills in a community-type setting.


When hospital leaders were developing plans for the construction of the new hospital, they wanted to include an area where patients could practice vocational and life skills in a community-type atmosphere as part of their treatment. This area, now known as Kirkbride Plaza, opened in January. It offers patients a place to work and socialize in a "normal" yet controlled setting.


"It gives us a really good opportunity," patient Edwina Ybarra said. "We're just learning things here that we can carry on with us when we leave and that's the best thing."


Ybarra, a patient in the hospital's transition program, spends 10 hours a week working as a cashier and sales associate in the plaza's market. She said she hopes to use her newly acquired skills and experience to find a job once she leaves the hospital.


"It's something you can apply in the community because there are so many places you can secure a part-time retail position," Ybarra said.


Approximately 10 patient-pay positions will be available in the plaza. Along with the market, which is similar to a convenience store, patients can apply for positions at the cafe, clothing shop or coffee cart.


"The environment closely mirrors what's going on in the community," said Nikki Mobley, the hospital's treatment mall coordinator. "Patients will be able to build skill sets in different venues that will transfer out into the

community so that when they look for employment out there, they'll have a skill base."


Working in the plaza, patients will learn about food service, maintaining inventory, ordering items, handling money and the importance of good customer service. Those who work at the coffee cart will even have the chance to become certified baristas.


Not only will the patients working at Kirkbride Plaza benefit from the space, but those who visit and use the area will have the chance to practice social skills and make decisions in a real-world environment.


Patients will have the opportunity to order their own meals and make decisions about how they spend their money, while interacting with other patients and staff in a positive, appropriate way.


"For many patients, I think this will be their first step toward community outings and an important step in their recovery," Mobley said. "We have a number of patients who have just earned their privileges or are very close, and Kirkbride Plaza will be nice area for staff to work with them and evaluate them before we start taking them out into the community."