Please scroll down the page to see written blog entries from various Aurora Charter Oak staff members.
Video blogs can be viewed here:
Making a Difference in Someone’s Life
Steve Jennings - Director of Business Development
February 21, 2020
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 fulltime 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
Community Liaison Corner
Hi, I’m Sandra Stewart, one of the Community Liaisons for Aurora Charter Oak Hospital and the Charter Oak Recovery Center, located in Covina, California.
I've been working at Aurora Charter Oak since 2013, and I would love to get some feedback on my posts to this periodic blog.
You can reach me at 626-975-5902 or Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org
November 8, 2019
I realize that it's been some time since I’ve written in my blog, but I’ve been extremely busy! For the last couple of months, I’ve been doing very exciting work for our CARES Outpatient Program here at Aurora Charter Oak Hospital. We wanted to reach out to more people who could truly benefit from joining our community - not only to get help with a mental health or substance abuse problem but also to enjoy all the wonderful activities that we offer. So I've been focused on visiting Board and Care owners/managers, Sober Living homes, and other facilities where individuals live who might want to participate in our program.
As I began meeting with owners and residents, I realized that many individuals who would love to enroll in CARES did not have Medi-Cal coverage and therefore would have a share of cost beyond their means. I talked it over with my supervisor and asked if I could take some training on Medi-Cal eligibility and learn how to assist people in the application process. Since then, I've been able to help a significant number of folks apply and obtain Medi-Cal coverage, which has been very rewarding not only for me but for those that wanted the option to attend a behavioral health treatment program.
I’ve met many amazing people and listened to their stories. The stigma of mental illness is a blanket that covers the hearts and spirits of so many, and in a lot of cases, has broken the spirits of those that shouldn't have suffered. They’ve been bullied and beaten up for situations beyond their control. Being able to bring hope and joy into their lives by spending a few hours with them has made my life fuller and I am proud of what I am able to do, and proud to work at a facility that cares.
With the holidays upon us, I hope that all of us will remember those who don’t always have a voice, and show compassion.
March 6, 2018
I realize that it’s been some time since I’ve written, and I do apologize. I’ve had so many good ideas for my blog, but it seems that life just gets in the way, and when I find time, I realize I’ve forgotten them. So, as one of my resolutions, I’ve promised myself to write something at least every quarter.
For this posting, I’d like to write about a miracle. Although I’ve written about my Downtown L.A. Coffee Club previously, I must shine the light on them again. They’ve gone above and beyond all expectations. Around September of last year, these ladies began planning a fundraiser for their adopted special cause, the Los Angeles Mission in downtown L.A. Throughout the year they had donated their time at the Mission, and never forgotten the clients and staff they became close with. So they decided to throw a dinner and dance to raise funds for a “Family Wing”. This wing will be a safe haven where homeless families will be able to come and build themselves back into society. The children will be given clothing and shoes, books, backpacks and school supplies. The families will be given everything needed to exist, free of charge, until they can find jobs and housing. To some, this may not seem like a big deal, but to those who have nothing and may have lost hope on the streets, it’s everything.
These ladies organized a dinner dance held on the night of December 30th. Two hundred attendees ate and danced the light fantastic at the W Hotel. They hired a full band, served the finest foods and after desert, before the dancing started, they showed a 12-minute movie of what life on the streets does to families. The evening was an experience most will not forget for many years. It was stellar. Everyone gave from the heart, and at the end of the night, the total tally was announced. The Downtown L.A. Coffee Club raised a staggering $120,000.00 for the Los Angeles Mission’s Family Fund! There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and to top the night off, an anonymous donor graciously pledged to renovate an abandoned building they owned near the Mission, allowing it to become the Family Wing!
To say that I am honored to be a part of this group is an understatement. I have never in my life known such love, such caring for total strangers, and such grace. I never expected that when I started this Coffee Club and introduced everyone to each other, that they would go on to become angels to a community of people who had lost hope.
To Dr. Janet Woznica, Dr. Miranda Boe, Katie Enney, Dr. Stephanie Baron and Dr. Jeanne Young: not only do I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to know you all, but I stand in awe of each one of you!! I thank you for showing all those that you touch how loving kindness can change lives.
Renovations on the Family Wing will begin in March, with a projected move-in by Thanksgiving 2018.
I’ll write again soon, and until then, sharing is caring!
SPRING 2017 BLOG
Hello and Happy Spring!
For this posting, I’d like to give kudos to some amazing ladies. I’ve founded and continue to run some small professional women's networking groups throughout Los Angeles County -- we call these groups Coffee Clubs. The participants include Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Treatment professionals who come together to network and do some outreach work in their local communities. We now have about 10 of these Coffee Clubs running and each one is amazing in its own right.
Let me shine the spotlight on our "Downtown L.A. Coffee Club." This group includes Dr. Janet Woznica, Dr. Miranda Boe, Dr. Katie Enney, Dr. Stephanie Baron, and Dr. Jeanne Young. We have been meeting for the past eight months or so. The participants decided they wanted to do something to benefit the community and came up with the idea of helping the homeless in the Skid Row area of Downtown Los Angeles.
After researching several options, they set up a schedule at one of the Skid Row Homeless Shelters to provide counseling to homeless clients at no cost, every other weekday. The Coffee Club participants report that this has been very fulfilling for each of them, and the shelter clients have been very appreciative and grateful for not only the help, but the time spent. For many of these clients, the feeling of being forgotten by society is what seems to hurt the most.
I work in the behavioral health field to give back, to help others. The women in the L.A. Coffee Club are giving their time and abilities selflessly, helping those who are struggling to help themselves. I am humbled by their efforts and accomplishments, and very honored to have brought this group of incredible individuals together!
Till next time!
September 14, 2016
Recently I was invited to a dinner given by two of our referral sources at the Pasadena Hilton Hotel. The dinner was an evening to remember, held in the Sapphire Room and catered by the top East Indian restaurant in Los Angeles. There had to be at least 200 healthcare professionals in attendance. There was a full band, a troop of “Bollywood” dancers, an eight-course meal served on gleaming brass platters, and every type of beverage imaginable.
I would never have been at this amazing event had I not been working at Aurora Charter Oak Hospital, which gave me the opportunity to connect with these two physicians. I gave out all of my marketing materials and met more people than I can name, all of whom were kind enough to ask me to meet with them on an individual basis.
Not only will I remember this night for the rest of my life, but I have made some very strong contacts within this community. I can’t imagine having a better job, with better people. If you are interested in working in an industry that gives you the satisfaction of being a resource of hope and help and brings joy and assistance to others, working in Behavioral Health is the way to go.
Until next time, I remain a very happy Community Liaison for Aurora Charter Oak Hospital and Recovery Center!
October 29, 2015
I wanted to talk a bit about a recent event that took place here at Aurora Charter Oak Hospital. On Wednesday, October 21, we were visited by Rob and Rita Lancefield. Rita’s mother, Mary Gould, was the founder of Charter Oak Hospital, originally named Charter Oak Lodge. Rita worked at Charter Oak Lodge while she was in high school and college. She met her husband, Rob, at the facility while he worked as a gardener. We had a very enjoyable lunch with Rob and Rita, and learned how Mary Gould founded the facility in 1941, in order to help women with behavioral health issues. Later the facility shifted its focus to treating adolescent females. Mary was a social worker and her father was an attorney and judge for “Court 95”, the Los Angeles County Mental Health Court. The Charter Oak campus was originally mainly orange groves and the first treatment facility housed 8 individuals at a time, most coming from the court system. Mary’s father had given her the land after he received it from a client in payment for legal services. Her father was also the major contributor to funding Charter Oak Lodge. The nearby community was not happy about having a “mental hospital” in the area. Rita shared old newspaper articles with us that noted local residents protested the expansion of Charter Oak Lodge in 1947.
Rita shared that her mother was very dedicated to the facility and worked up until the day before she passed away, in 1976, at age 67. After probate, the family ended up selling the facility to Charter Medical Corporation in 1981. The family used the money from that sale to fund the Charter Oak Foundation, a non-profit organization that continues to help families to this day.
After our lunch, I took the Lancefields on a tour. They were delighted at the expansion of the hospital and how Aurora Charter Oak has continued caring for individuals with behavioral health problems. They were truly happy at how lovely the grounds appear and thanked us for carrying on Mary’s vision. Next year, 2016, marks the 75th Anniversary of Charter Oak. It is a wonderful feeling to know that we have continued the tradition of service established by Mary Gould! If you are interested in taking a tour of our facility, please contact me at Sandra.email@example.com
October 13, 2015
Hello again! For this blog entry, I would like to discuss the Women’s Association for Addiction Treatment (WAAT) organization and how it ties into my position at Aurora Charter Oak Hospital (ACOH). WAAT is a national organization made up of professional women in addiction treatment. I am the founder and Co-Chair for the San Gabriel Valley Chapter. WAAT provides the opportunity for professional women in the addiction treatment field to get together once a month to network and be educated by guest speakers.
WAAT has afforded me the opportunity to meet referral sources I never have met, and become educated about their services. We’ve had some amazing speakers recently, including the COO of ACOH, Sheila Cordova, who spoke on Training Nurses in Recovery. We reach out to the community and try to educate others by networking our membership’s individual specialties. WAAT also offers a forum to learn what’s new in the addiction treatment arena.
Recently, we were given approval from the national WAAT leadership to hold our local chapter meeting here at ACOH once a quarter. This is wonderful for our hospital and RTC, as we can invite all of our staff to join the meeting. And we can invite WAAT members to tour our facility and campus, giving them a more personal feel for the services we provide.
I’m very excited to announce that January 21st, 2016 will be our first WAAT meeting at ACOH! If you would like to attend, please RSVP to me in person, or via our Facebook Page (San Gabriel Valley WAAT association), or email me at Sandra.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, the WAAT National Conference is Friday, October 23rd, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m at the Olympic Collection Conference Center in Los Angeles. I invite you to join us. The fee is $95 for members and $125 for non-members, which included lunch. Our featured speaker will be Dr. Carolyn Coker-Ross, a board-certified Addiction Medicine specialist, who will be discussing Integrative Therapies for Eating and Substance Disorders. If you’d like more information, please feel free to contact me at 626-975-5902.
July 2, 2015
I wanted to take a minute to applaud one of our recent speakers: Karen Allan, LMFT, who has an amazing resume, including graduation from Oxford University. We hold a Breakfast Lecture Series here at Aurora Charter Oak almost every month, featuring guest speakers and Continuing Education Units for healthcare professionals. In May, Karen spoke on Bipolar II Disorder to a packed house. Not only is she dedicated to assisting those who suffer from this diagnosis, but it is her passion to speak and shed light on the subject.
Karen gave a stellar presentation and she brought four of her clients who have suffered from this affliction to share their experiences. The impact on the audience was amazing. Everyone had questions and participated. She actually ran out of promotional materials and was asked to speak at other venues. It was a wonderful morning for all who heard her and her clients.
Karen was gracious, eloquent and charming, all of this while walking through a grave personal situation. Her husband, Joshi, had been battling cancer for the last two years. A psychologist and a published author, Joshi had a lust for life unparalleled by most. A true shining star in Karen’s life, and the love of her life. They walked through a roller coaster in faith and with the support and love of friends and family. Joshi had fought through to remission after remission, each time knowing he had won the battle, always with Karen by his side. Karen tending to his care plus running Crossroads, her successful family therapy practice, all with the same grace and attention she gave to everything she does.
Last month, Joshi passed away. Karen stands strong and lives for them both now, and says she feels Joshi beside her at all times, helping her. I’ve met many people in my professional and personal life, and Karen Allan remains special to me and all those she’s touched. We keep her in our thoughts.
Till next time. Thank you for following my blog.
What the Nursing Profession Means to Me
April 26, 2019 - Sheila Cordova, COO
Carol Ivy has been a Community Liaison with Aurora Charter Oak Hospital since 2016. Her community outreach territory includes San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange Counties.
March 19, 2018
Visiting Senior Parents – An “Away” Daughter’s Thoughts.
I spent my vacation, recently, visiting my senior parents. My mother, age 93, and my father, age 94 are blessed with the ability to still live at home. My mother suffered a stroke last year and now has a 24-hour caregiver. My father is able to care for himself (pretty much) without the help of an aide.
I’d like to share some thoughts on the things I experienced, and what one might want to look for when visiting with senior parents. I did a little research before going (e.g., www.AgingCare.com) and, so, had some idea of what to look for and what to expect.
Emotional Well-Being. The first thing I wanted to evaluate was my parents’ emotional health. According to my research, emotional well-being is one of the big indicators of how well aging parents are maintaining in the home. Even though I spoke with my father almost daily, it was difficult to gauge how he was really doing without seeing him face to face. I had to see him in person to observe how he was coping with the stresses of having a caregiver in the home. I needed to be with my mother one-on-one to see how well she was responding to the new caregiver and to see how she looked physically. I wanted to assess both of them for any signs of depression or unhappiness.
Fortunately, both of my parents seemed very well emotionally. I think it is a little stressful for my father to have a caregiver in the house--cooking, rearranging the kitchen, moving clothes, etc.--but he is hanging in there and really very happy to be at home with his wife of 70 years. My mother, who was in a nursing home for several months, is now eating well, laughing more often and just seeming to be in good spirits over all.
Changes in Mobility. Observing how parents are moving in the home is of primary concern. On this visit, I found that both of my parents have had changes in their mobility since I last saw them four months ago. My mother, who has been in a wheelchair for about a year, continues to be at risk for falling and now requires help to move from the bed to the wheelchair. My dad now keeps a cane handy--something he rarely did before--and struggles on and off with joint pain. The physical therapist who visits weekly is a new addition to the weekly activities. She does exercises with my mother and encourages my father to participate as well. My father, up until last summer, played golf once a week. He now swears that, once the weather turns from snow to sunshine, he will go right back out there again with his 91-years-young golfing buddy.
Home Environment. On this visit, my brother and I decided that it was time to assess the house for needed repairs. Our father, who for years was adamant about not “changing anything that doesn’t need changing” or “fixing anything that doesn’t need fixing,” had to be over-ruled. The old kitchen floor carpet needed to be replaced and the bathroom needed new tile. The kitchen counter had seen its last days. With loving persuasion, we were able to convince our father to let us make arrangements for the needed repairs.
So, my vacation was a working one, but filled with joy and love. The next visit will come much sooner than before. Even though my brother lives close to our parents, it will take both of us to help them maintain the home environment in a way that meets up to their usual standards. It will take both of us to have those conversations about personal hygiene, to deal with the supportive services and to maintain the “to do” lists to keep the household functioning. I look forward to working with my brother and my parents jointly to keep them at home for as long as possible. We are all looking forward to their 71st anniversary in September, 2018!
May 29, 2017
Are you one of those unique people who are passionate about health and wellness and have decided to make the healthcare field your career path? It can be a daunting and challenging experience to say the least! In my work as a Community Liaison with Aurora Charter Oak Hospital, I am privileged to meet all types of people who work in the healthcare industry. This list includes therapists, owners of health-related businesses, and even patients and family members investigating a career in a health-related field.
I recently had an opportunity to meet with Dr. James J. DeSantis, a licensed psychologist with a successful private practice in Glendora, California. I thought that some of his ideas might be very helpful to anyone trying to build a fulfilling health care business. Jim has great ideas on how to identify, target and retain the ideal client. He offers real-world business strategies to help make you successful.
Dr. DeSantis has written several articles and a book (The Business of Practice: Building an Optimal Private Practice for Mental Health Professionals) specifically for mental health professionals to help them develop strategic marketing plans. Below are some of the marketing guidelines by Dr. DeSantis that may be particularly useful to anyone hoping to increase their business market share:
- Formulating Business Goals – Private practice is a business. Clinicians are not usually taught to think about themselves as entrepreneurs, or therapy as a business. In order to be successful however, you must follow some general business practices. The most important of these is to clarify and prioritize your long-term goals. Base your goals on your core values and beliefs.
- Inventory your unique pool of existing resources – including expertise, interests, aptitudes, and support systems. Rather than responding to the marketplace (“Here’s what I can do”), think about “What do I enjoy doing?” What am I good at?” These questions will help you to identify a niche where you can excel.
- Design must come before Implementation – First, research the market. Identify societal macro-trends and future markets. Identify your target market and referral sources. Analyze “customer” expectations and needs and what you can deliver. What’s in demand? If people don’t want what you have to offer or you don’t enjoy doing it – you probably need to rethink your marketing plan.
- Implementing Strategy – Assess your competitors and market position. Articulate your unique image and message. Design promotional strategy which maximizes your personal competencies and interests. Also consider the following: Who do you enjoy working with? Who keeps coming back? Remember the Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule): 20% of your customers create 80% of your revenue!
- Maintain Persistence – Deploy a coherent business strategy consistently over time. Persistence in overcoming obstacles is a better indicator of success than any other characteristic or skill. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED! Actively track results, evaluate progress, and modify goals and methods until you are successful!
I hope you find these marketing tools and concepts helpful. Dr. DeSantis is available for further consultation through his website: www.jjdesantis.com
Pictured above left: Jim De Santis Pictured above right: Carol Ivy
September 9, 2016
Please Help! My child is struggling with depression and addiction and did not come home last night!
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 ACOH.
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 week-ends 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!
May 16, 2016
My name is Carol Ivy and I am a new Community Liaison 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 elder care specialist. Recently I joined Aurora Charter Oak Hospital and 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 look forward to spreading the word about how Aurora Charter Oak Hospital provides help and hope to those in need.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 626-488-4622 if you have any questions about our services or are looking for behavioral health education or other resources.