Creating a New Life Through Integrated Care

Sep 19, 2023


Michael [not his real name] heard voices and felt harassed whenever he was in a public space. Seeking help, he came to LifeWorks NW and has worked with the Integrated Care team for more than 10 years. Today, with medication and therapy, as well as coping and grounding skills, he is better able to control his response to this challenging health issue.

“Dr. Shelby, she was a wonderful doctor,” says Michael. “The new doctor, Doctor Jackie, I have only met her a couple times, but she seems to really understand me and what medications I have to take. Sometimes a new doctor comes in and changes things, Dr. Jackie is not like that, she gives the same what I took. Jessica [his LifeWorks NW case manager] “helps me try to get benefits, helps me practice drawing, helps me with living things like cooking, talks to me about my house. Anything [life skills/connecting to resources] she answer[s]for me, help[s] me to call to ask about what benefits I have.

“My symptoms depend on my stress level these days. In class or when I go into the public. I still have people harassing and bullying me, but I have better ways to cope. I listen to music, I take medication, I watch shows/YouTube, or I do homework. When I feel hopeless, I take my medication and try to sleep/take a nap.”

With LifeWorks NW integrated, holistic approach, Michael also has had the opportunity to work with the Supported Employment program, which in the past has helped him with resume building, job training, visiting the unemployment office, and connecting to a part-time job.  

Now, Jen Burke, a LifeWorks NW Supported Education specialist is helping him in a variety of different ways. The program evaluated Michael’s progress in his English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes and supported him as he decided to step back to a lower level in order to craft better building blocks. Jen has helped Michael connect with disability services, school advisors and an ESOL advisor. Together, they worked on study skills and computer skills and gained comfort using computers for remote learning during the COVID pandemic. Jen connected him with Portland Community College’s (PCC) STEP College Success & Career Coach, Marissa Moser. STEP provides career planning and support, books, bus tickets and hygiene materials.

“Jennifer, the [Supported] Education specialist, is very, very professional and very good,” says Michael. “She taught me how to work with the computer, taught me how to do the grammar checking site, [she] came to school with me and show[ed] me how to meet with the disability people in PCC, and how they work best for me. [She helped] me apply non-credit waiver. [She’s] easy to contact, she answer[s] me right back when I need support with school.”

“We’re hoping he can be provided the required supplies for a welding class, which he’d like to take,” says Jen. “As of this term, Michael has completed all his ESOL classes, and will be officially graduating from the ESOL program as of this summer! He will then take math classes, the final pre-requisite requirement prior to moving on to the welding program.”

“School is wonderful,” says Michael. “First thing is that technology right now is really great, we can see teacher or classmates on Zoom. We can review the class on the recording. The teacher is a professional, they teach the students very well and they have the patience to do that, which is impressive. [My] classmates are from all over the world, they are very great, young, very talented. I’m receiving A’s in some of my classes.”

“When I met with Michael, he was so nervous about taking classes,” says Jen. “He had attempted ESOL classes in the past and was not sure why he wasn’t able to progress forward. We discussed the importance of reinforcing building blocks and that has been so helpful. He’s receiving A’s in most of his classes these days. He was really flexible and receptive to stepping outside his comfort zone throughout the COVID shutdown and learned a lot about how to utilize a computer, which wasn’t originally a strength. He learned quickly that it was actually a preferred method of learning, as he was able to focus on what he was learning and was less distracted. Michael has shared with me many times that his schoolwork and homework are something of a coping skill for him when his symptoms are overwhelming.”

“I didn’t expect the future would be the best for me,” says Michael “I prepared it would be worse, not good, because [of] my experience…[in] the environment; when I go [in]to public I get harassed. My goal is I continue with school (math and then welding) until I can get a good job.

“All of LifeWorks [NW] is very good.”