Few American occupational therapists work in mental health-related services. Deborah Pitts, an occupational therapy professor at USC Chan, is providing leadership to change that. She wants to increase the number of occupational therapists employed in mental-health services providing support to the homeless. USC initiatives and Pitts' years of hard work have brought an increase in occupational therapy services to the Los Angeles area homeless community.
Occupational Therapy Students on the Healthcare Team
Seven years ago, USC began a student-run clinic based on a team approach to healthcare. Occupational therapy is part of the multi-disciplinary team. Today the clinic has two locations. The patients at both locations include homeless, underserved, or uninsured individuals.
The Skid Row Housing Trust contacted Pitts to form a partnership between that organization and USC Chan. Today occupational therapy students work with residents of the housing trust, all of whom formerly experienced homelessness. The occupational therapy students support residents in a variety of ways, including assistance with activities of daily living and care coordination.
A Success Story
Stephanie Moon received her doctorate in occupational therapy from USC Chan in 2018. Through her work in the student-run clinic, she was exposed to the field of public mental health. Her fascination with this specialty led her to do an independent study position and a clinical doctoral residency at John Wesley Community Health Institute, the largest homeless healthcare agency in the L.A. area. Today Moon has a job in public mental health as the director of behavioral health and case management at the MLK Jr. Recuperative Care Center located in L.A.
Recently, Pitts received a Workforce Education and Training Program Public Mental/Behavioral Health Pipeline Grant from the state of California. Pitts and USC Chan will use the grant to raise the number of USC-trained occupational therapists going into the area of public mental-behavioral health services.
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Image courtesy of Karl Sonnenberg / Shutterstock
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