Our Storytellers: Our story through the eyes of our employees
Tom Olbrich, Director of Access and Emergency Services
What brought you here and how long ago was that?
I came here 20 years ago from another mental health center because it seemed like a great opportunity. There seem to be a lot of positive energy here. When I interviewed here it felt like there was a better understanding of where we were headed, and what our mission was and so that was very appealing to me. They really had a commitment to trying to serve our community.
What was it like back then and how much has changed?
We were a lot smaller. I have been overseeing intake since I’ve been here. When I started we were admitting about 200 people a month. We are now admitting over 800 a month. So we have grown tremendously over the last 20 years and as we have grown we have developed a lot of new and specialized programs that we didn’t have 20 years ago.
It goes back to the uniqueness of each individual who shows up for our services in developing specialized programs where people have training in specific skills which allows us to do a better job of matching clients with providers who know how to help a particular issue they have.
I think one of the biggest changes has been the increased focus on recovery and resilience. We have always believed in people’s ability to recover but there is more of a focus on involving our consumers and their own recovery, partnering with them more, listening to our consumers and what they find helpful. I think the recovery movement and the addition of peer specialists I think has really enriched us.
What has been your most impactful experience while here at Jefferson Center?
April 20, 1999-Columbine. None of us was prepared for the magnitude of what we confronted that day. It was a life-changing day, a terrifying day in terms of the impact of the loss of lives and injuries to our students. The most remarkable thing is despite our own reactions, our own grief, our own sadness about what happened, we were able to shift into another gear and with the teamwork, we were able to pull together both internally and with community partners and that enabled us to do some remarkable things to help the community recover from this horrible incident. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more people pull together more quickly with a single focus and a single aim: let’s do everything to help our community recover.
I think it was really important for us to be there to spearhead the community response and make sure that people could get what they needed to get through this horrible time. I don’t know what they would have done in the end had we not been there.
Any poignant or humerous memories over the years?
We used to have a vice president here by the name of John Eachon and he was the funniest man I’ve ever met. He had a way of coming into meetings and cutting the tension and inducing laughter that really allowed us to relax and pull together and do good work, so I just miss him and remember the contributions he made to making this a wonderful place.