REPOSTED from The Times Tribune by JON O’CONNELL, STAFF WRITER
One of Veronica Carey’s students dreams of a mansion and pet tiger.
A mansion? Maybe.
The tiger? Less likely. However, she offered to help him Google tiger ownership to see how realistic his Tony Montana — antihero in the movie “Scarface” — aspirations might be.
The Drexel University associate clinical professor and Ph.D. teaches one of two new psychiatric rehabilitation programs for adults with disabilities through Allied Services.
Her embracing approach to rehabilitation, geared toward young adults preparing to leave or who just left the education system, reaches students through humor, mutual engagement and respect, she said.
Both of Allied’s new programs, Jump Start and New Directions, help people with disabilities like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to reach new independence milestones.
Funded by the AllOne Foundation and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Health Care Foundation, Jump Start held its first session in June.
Four more are planned this year. Allied provides transportation, if needed, and lunch.
Students, who must live in Lackawanna County, learn about other psych rehab programs to help them reach their goals.
“It’s actually to educate students to what’s available to them as adults,” said Maureen Walsh, director of Allied’s behavioral health division.
Psych rehab programs historically have been for adults 18 and older, but the state Department of Human Services is considering lowering the age to include teens as young as 14 — the age research shows they are ready to pick up essential life skills, Ms. Walsh said. Under the regulations now, teens interested in programs need a waiver to participate.
At Jump Start, which simply primes youngsters on what will be available when they’re of age, Dr. Carey starts by asking the students to talk about their dreams. She calls them “treasures.”
“That exercise seems to really engage them,” said Allyson Simpson, an Allied psychiatric rehabilitation specialist.
Both Ms. Simpson and Ms. Walsh reveled when the group of 11 students, 17-year-olds from the Scranton School District, opened up to Dr. Carey during that first June session and later swarmed her during the break with their own questions.
“It’s quite literally the ability to distance the notion of power,” Dr. Carey said, explaining students who feel valued for their input show more aptitude to engage.
“Let’s make the training reciprocal,” she said.
Helen Bruneshefski, 52, remembers how her father cooked food for her family.
“I watched how he did the ham and I loved it,” she said. “He used to put cloves in it, on a round ham for the holiday.”
Ms. Bruneshefski has schizophrenia, and her medication causes involuntary muscle movements, which to this point made her shy of the kitchen. When living on her own, she sustained herself mostly with boiled hot dogs, pierogies and sloppy Joes, she said. Her physician didn’t like that.
She also recently became a grandmother. Now that the little one keeps her daughter, her usual helper, occupied, she wants to take better care of herself.
At a New Directions class, she used a new skill, the internet, to find a chicken Alfredo recipe.
She compiled her ingredients list, and later cooked the pasta, sauce and chicken to make a complete meal.
New Directions, which started accepting clients in August, helps eligible adults 18 and older with disabilities who receive Health Choices Medical Assistance hone skills like cooking, completing household chores and filling out job applications — all moving toward independence.
With group sessions and one-on-one classes, the program also has a mobile component to meet students outside its Blakely headquarters.
For as long as it takes to reach their goals, students also learn more personal skills, like stress and anger management. Many enroll simply for help finishing their GED certificates.
Inspired by her newfound flair in the kitchen, Ms. Bruneshefski said she wants to try lasagna next.
Contact the writer:
firstname.lastname@example.org, @jon_oc on Twitter
• To learn more about New Directions and the criteria to be eligible, call 570-382-8317.
• To register for Jump Start, call Allied Services Behavioral Division, 570-346-9558.
The next Jump Start session is scheduled from 9 a.m to 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 29.