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Supported education helps patients achieve goals, work toward recovery

Education can play an important role in the recovery
Patient Kenny Aljets works on a science assignment with teacher Ashley Eason. Education can play an important role in the recovery of some patients, and as part of his treatment, Aljets, is enrolled in the OSH Supported Education program.

Oregon State Hospital may not be your traditional school setting, but for some patients, formal education plays a key role in their treatment and recovery from mental illness.


"Supported education is a major influence in my recovery. The teachers have shown a great deal of care, and the education I've received so far has helped me to better communicate with the psychiatric professionals helping me to recover," said Phillip Hawkins, an OSH patient. "If this program wasn't here, I don't think I would be able to recover at all."


Hawkins has been taking classes through the hospital's Supported Education program for the past six years, including several courses from Chemeketa Community College. He is one of approximately 90 OSH patients enrolled in the program, which is part of the hospital's Rehabilitation Department and serves the educational needs of patients over the age of 22.


Last year, Supported Education staff provided more than 10,700 hours of instruction to OSH patients covering a wide range of options and topics. Some patients may need to learn life skills such as reading, writing, basic math or computer skills. Others may be interested in more intensive programs such as English as a second language or pursuing their GED or post-secondary education.


"What we do every day is congruent with the mission of the hospital," said teacher Ashley Eason. "Two of the leading indicators of success after discharge are a patient's education and employment. Most people are not going to find a job without an education, so it's a key component for their successful transition back into society."


Supported education is offered during treatment mall hours at the Bridges, Trails, Harbors and downtown treatment malls. Depending on their needs and what they're studying, patients may spend up to 10 hours a week in the classroom.


"It's a pretty unique type of educational setting here," Mike DiPasquale, a teacher of 27 years at OSH, said. "It's not your typical school where we have a curriculum and a broad lesson plan. We take into account each patient's diagnosis, abilities and current emotional state and teach at their own level."


Patients are referred to the program by their interdisciplinary treatment team. Once a patient is assessed and placed at the appropriate level, he or she will work with a teacher to establish goals and tailor individualized lesson plans.


"We find out what they want to accomplish, so that their curriculum reflects their goals," teacher Erika Gabbard explained. "We then work with the treatment care team to have these goals written into their treatment plan."


For patients under the age of 22, educational services are provided in the Harbors and downtown treatment malls by Helen Macey through the QUEST Adult School. She said while many of the patients are hesitant about going to school at first, the small class sizes and individualized attention usually help them overcome their reservations.


"Most of them didn't have a good experience in public school, but with some guided help, they can be successful," Macey explained. "When that light bulb comes on and they're finally learning, many of them really end up enjoying school."