Acutely ill homeless men arrive at Joseph’s Home in Cleveland’s Central Neighborhood knowing they will receive a range of services to help recover their health and successfully transition to permanent housing. Nursing care, case management, wellness counseling and financial counseling are the most common needs.
But, behind the success of each man who completes the Joseph’s Home program, there’s another key element: occupational therapy. Occupational therapists and assistants help patients who are dealing with illness, injury or developmental delays to gain the skills they need to function and succeed in daily life. For seven years, students in the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program at Cuyahoga Community College have been coming to Joseph’s Home for field experience.
Preceptor Debbra Harbst Lisy, M.A., OTR/L teaches in the Tri-C OTA program and assigns students to sites for field work. In her opinion, Joseph’s Home presents a unique opportunity for training.
“Being at Joseph’s Home helps students to see some of the non-traditional ways occupational therapy can be involved in a patient’s recovery, and to practice non-traditional intervention techniques,” says Lisy.
The students aren’t the only ones to benefit from the field experience. The trainees’ time at Joseph’s Home gives them an opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of residents. For example, according to Lisy, students Demetrius Collier and Deanna Mixon learned that Joseph’s Home residents were struggling to organize their belongings and paperwork effectively – to the point that the disorganization could interfere with their access to care. The students worked with the residents to help them gain the organizational skills they needed to overcome this challenge.
Sister Regina Fierman, CSA is a certified OTA and a 1995 alumnus of Tri-C’s program. She was instrumental in the founding of Joseph’s Home and worked there from 2000 to 2009. It was through her efforts that Joseph’s Home and Tri-C formed their partnership.
Reflecting on the value of occupational therapy services for Joseph’s Home residents, Sister Regina said, “The men at Joseph’s Home come with various medical issues. While I was on staff there, I was able to apply the skills that I learned as an OTA to help them to regain the ability to take care of themselves. This definitely helped in getting them prepared to move into permanent housing.”
Joseph’s Home Executive Director Georgette Jackson believes so strongly in the value of providing occupational therapy services for Joseph’s Home residents that she serves on the advisory committee of the Tri-C OTA program.
“Tri-C sends us students who are prepared and willing to help,” says Jackson. “It’s a pleasure to have them at Joseph’s Home and I can’t say enough about the value that they provide for our residents.”