“The most rewarding thing is to see the change in our clients — no matter how small”

Kayona Blackwood

Team Leader

Kayona Blackwood has a unique perspective of our mental health system.

“To tell you why I like working at Oaklawn, I have to tell you my experience,” she begins.

Kayona is originally from Jamaica. The mental health system there is practically non-existent. There are no community mental health centers, and most mentally ill adults wind up living on the streets, often dying because of violence against them.

“So when I came here, and saw how Oaklawn treats [people with mental illness], like normal people — because they are — and treats them with respect, I so appreciate that,” she says.

Kayona is a former accountant, but “I hated the office, and I love people.”

So after eight years in the accounting field, Kayona received her bachelor’s degree in social work then came to the U.S. to pursue a Master of Social Work from Andrews University. While in school, she started at Oaklawn as an intern, and joined the team full time as a Team Leader after officially receiving her degree in May of 2017.

The adult population can be tough to work with, she says. It takes patience and understanding, and too often, she sees others quit too soon. But, if they stick it out, it’s worth it.

“The most rewarding thing is to see the change in our clients — no matter how small, even if it’s just losing one pound, becoming their own payee or following up on addiction treatment,” she says. “Helping them help themselves — that’s priceless.”

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