Valley Behavioral Health is a nonprofit network of clinics that last year served almost 18,000 clients with behavioral issues, addictions, psychiatric conditions and other chronic health issues. Among its 803 employees is new Case Manager Jessica Shade who came to this line of work via an unusual route.
Your education is not like anything we know of. Tell me about it.
As a United Methodist from the South, I got my Masters of Divinity from Emery University in Atlanta and studied Hebrew scripture. At Emery, I became interested in how new religions get started. I wrote my Master's thesis on the Rastafari, an Abrahamic belief started in Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastafari is a relatively new religion that traces its lineage to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. It sees Ethiopia as the new Zion and reveres Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I.
That's different from your traditional Judeo Christian education. How did you even find it?
Here in the states, I met an elder called Queen Mother Moses in the 12 Tribe House of Rastafari. I met her through my Jamaican professor in grad school where he was teaching a world religions class on Rastas. Queen Mother Moses brought a small group of us from Emery to Jamaica and introduced us to the well-known Reggae recording artist Tony Rebel and the Bobo Shanti commune in Bull Bay. That field of study led me to spend time in Jamaica, which was fascinating.
How did you transition from academic divinity school to the rugged outdoors?
After graduating, I Google-searched for jobs I could do that would help people. I joined Aspiro Group in Sandy, Utah, which provides wilderness adventure therapy for young people between 13-30 suffering from everything from substance abuse to autism. Through wilderness settings and adventure, we increased self-efficacy by taking clients into the wilderness and help them function in all weather conditions, 365 day a year, in varied environments, all over the state. I was field operations manager when I left to become a client case manager at Valley Behavioral Health.
So you went from 24/7 outdoor work to 9-5 case management?
That wouldn't be my characterization. Each program employs different methods to a common end. As a case worker, I now help people fill in the gaps between therapy and medications, addressing life's many changes. We help people figure out how to run their day to day lives more smoothly. It is very rewarding to be able to work with people with needs and I enjoy helping them discover their strengths, build on them and have a better life.
Is there anything surprising about you?
In spite of the facts that I hike, bike, ski, climb and have a paragliding license, I am terribly afraid of heights. When I am paragliding, I tell myself that this is just a green screen.