Please scroll down the page to see blog entries from various Aurora Charter Oak staff members.
Introducing Karin Gonzalez, Community Liaison
My name is Karin Gonzalez, and I am thrilled to join the Business Development team here at Aurora Charter Oak Hospital as a Community Liaison! I have spent all of my professional career in the helping professions, and each facet of the health and mental health field has taught me something new. Like my parents, I am a Native Californian who has called the San Gabriel Valley “home”. I grew up in Baldwin Park, and as an only child, I have stayed close to home throughout my education and career development. I graduated Cal Poly Pomona with a B.A. in Behavioral Science with a specialty of Counseling and Human Services, then went on to the University of La Verne for a Masters in Health Administration.
While I was still at Cal Poly, I was fortunate to find a mentor at my first job in mental health. As a secretary to the Program Manager, I had the opportunity to participate in accreditation preparation at the grass-roots level. The tiny vocational program I supported was awarded a provisional accreditation by CARF, The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Shortly thereafter, I found myself being recruited by a much larger organization that needed someone to lead their own accreditation effort – Pacific Clinics. Armed with a small contract with the State Department of Rehabilitation, a mentor who believed in me, and a new Program Director who took a leap of faith in bringing me aboard, I secured the first CARF accreditation for Pacific Clinics for Employment Services.
Building that program was a labor of love – I had a million questions, but I also had new mentors and a supportive Executive Leadership team to help me get our Work Adjustment and Job Placement services off the ground. Over eleven years, I built the Vocational Services up from a single location in Pasadena, to five clinics throughout Los Angeles County and a partnership with Pasadena City College’s Disabled Student Programs and Services. Through this partnership, PCC and Pacific Clinics created its own referral base for Mental Health Workers (now known as Health Navigators) by creating a Paraprofessional Training Program. Together, we created a pipeline of work opportunities for persons with mental illness, parents, and community members who had the passion and the goal to join the community mental health field.
Over the past 15 years, I have been blessed with great leaders, mentors and co-workers in my career, and I have been fortunate to work in varied aspects of health care, including hospice care, independent medical evaluations, and health promotion at a Federally Qualified Health Center. I have completed projects with the Veterans Health Administration, the State of California Department of Rehabilitation, the Department of Health Services, and the Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health and Mental Health.
As with many people, the COVID-19 pandemic led me to look inward and reassess what is truly important. Although I was incredibly lucky to continue to work throughout the pandemic in 2020, I experienced several periods of mandatory quarantine following exposure to the virus either from my own work in a Community Health Center or my daughter’s work at Starbucks. This new era of working from home helped me to feel less “Working Mom’s Guilt” and take a more active role in my teenage son’s schoolwork – a necessity after seeing his grades dive after school via Zoom became the norm.
I decided to look for a position that would allow me to work from home on a regular basis, and I was thrilled to have an opportunity to interview for Community Liaison for Aurora Charter Oak Hospital! From our first conversation, I felt like I was following the right path. After meeting the staff and observing the excellent services available here, I feel I have come full-circle with a return to my roots in mental health, and that I am right where I belong!
Making a Difference in Someone’s Life
Steve Jennings - Director of Business Development/COO
I come from a family of educators, and from the time I was a child, I wanted to grow up being able to help others. If I didn’t end up being a professor or a teacher, then perhaps I would become a counselor or therapist. Only by chance did I end up getting my first full-time job at a psychiatric hospital in Dana Point – that was over 30 years ago. A friend knew they were hiring and suggested I might like working with patients. They were right!
I spent the next six years working “on the units” with adults and adolescents: patients experiencing mental health, chemical dependency, and eating disorder crises. It was a life-altering experience, setting me on a career in healthcare. Being able to see the positive impact I could have on another person, each and every day I went to work, was a revelation. It’s what continues to inspire me here at Aurora Charter Oak, whether I’m interacting with a patient or family member, a referral source, or a co-worker.
Healthcare has changed a lot since most of us started working in this field, and who knows what is coming down the road. But what hasn’t changed for those of us working in behavioral health is the ability we have to touch someone’s life and help them through a crisis. It can be as simple as smiling and saying hello, or asking how someone’s day is going and if there is anything we can do to help them.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” - Leo Buscaglia
How to Find the Right Mental Health Practitioner
Carol Ivy - Community Liaison
What do you do when you find you are in need of a mental health practitioner? Do you search through tons of websites? Ask a friend? Call a family member?
It can be overwhelming trying to find the right therapist or psychiatric professional when you are seeking a mental health provider. Who do you call? You may not want to rely on the opinion of a friend. You may not want to share your issues with a family member. So, what then, is the best way to proceed?
As a Community Liaison at Aurora Charter Oak Behavioral Health Care, I have had the opportunity to help many people navigate this process. Since I work for a behavioral health care organization, I frequently get calls from physicians whose clients need a mental health referral.
Below are a few tips I have learned on how to locate the right person to meet specific needs:
- If you feel that you are in a crisis, do not be afraid to call 911. Your safety is of utmost importance and you can explain your situation to the 911 operator. Many communities have crisis intervention teams that can safely respond to psychiatric crisis calls.
- Seek referral recommendations from a health care provider you already know. Your own primary care doctor, for example, may know of someone appropriate for you or may help you research the best referral.
- Have a general understanding of what you need. If you are in need of medications, then you will probably want to find a psychiatrist or another specialist who can prescribe meds. If you are looking for someone to help you work through emotional issues, then you may want to find a therapist or a counselor. This will help you narrow your search.
- If you have healthcare insurance, contact them to get names of professionals who accept your insurance in your area. This can save you a lot of time.
- If you are working, you may have access to an employee assistance program (EAP) and they can provide assistance or make a referral.
- Finally, Aurora Charter Oak's Intake Department is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 800-654-2673. Please feel free to call us at any time. we can help as well!
What the Nursing Profession Means to Me
Sheila Cordova, COO
Please Help! My child is struggling with depression and addiction and did not come home last night!
Carol Ivy - Community Liaison
This distressed call from a mother is just an example of one of the many calls we may receive on any given day in our Intake Department at Aurora Charter Oak Behavioral Health Care Hospital (ACOH). Recently, as a Community Liaison Representative for the hospital, I received such a call from the family member of an individual struggling with both mental health and substance abuse concerns. By making that important but frightening call to me, this family took the first step toward getting help for their loved one, who is now receiving compassionate, quality care and treatment at Charter Oak.
What do we do? The steps below outline how we help you or your loved one if you are seeking care during a mental health and/or substance abuse crisis.
- When a family or an individual is in crisis, the first step is to connect them to our Intake Department for a free confidential assessment. Our Intake Department is open ALL OF THE TIME, including weekends and holidays. In other words, when in crisis, call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There will be a qualified mental health/substance abuse professional to walk you or your loved one through the next steps. CALL: (800) 654-2673 to speak with a professional staff member, who will listen to and assess your immediate needs.
- Once the telephone assessment is completed, our staff member will inform you as to the next steps. You may be asked to come directly to the hospital for a more thorough free evaluation. We offer inpatient services for anyone found to be in need of crisis stabilization. Our inpatient treatment services are available to anyone struggling with mental health concerns, chemical dependency, or a co-occurring disorder. We offer services to adolescents (ages 13+) and adults (ages 18+).
- If you are asked to come to the Hospital, come directly to Aurora Charter Oak Hospital, 1161 E. Covina Blvd., Covina, CA. We are conveniently located close to the 210 Freeway and the 10 Freeway.
- It may be that you or your family member would best be helped by our Residential Treatment Center, or by our Outpatient Services Department, or by referrals to other services in the community. Whatever the case, you will receive a free assessment at the hospital to determine which program will best meet your needs.
We have helped thousands of people in crisis over the past 75 years. It is our goal to provide compassionate, quality care. I hope this brief outline has helped you to understand our process and to help you MAKE THE ONE CALL THAT MIGHT SAVE YOU OR YOUR LOVED ONE’S LIFE!
My name is Carol Ivy and I am one of the Community Liaisons at Aurora Charter Oak Behavioral Health Care. I have worked at many places during my healthcare career over the past 40 years. I have been a mental health/substance abuse intake coordinator, a pharmaceutical sales representative, and an eldercare specialist. Since I joined Aurora Charter Oak Hospital in 2016, I have found it to be an amazing place, where not only patients, but the families of patients, and employees are treated with respect, caring, and compassion. I am thrilled to be part of the Charter Oak team.
As an African American woman, growing older and becoming increasingly concerned about the future of our world, how I contribute to the world has become more and more important to me. Charter Oak has offered me a unique and quite inspiring place to be of service. The issues of mental health and substance abuse affect us all – our families and our communities. I enjoy spreading the word about how Aurora Charter Oak Hospital provides help and hope to those in need.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 626-488-4622 if you have any questions about our services or are looking for behavioral health education or other resources.