When the coronavirus pandemic began to upturn lives across the country, Jelynne LeBlanc Jamison knew that time was of the essence. As president and CEO of the Center for Health Care Services, LeBlanc Jamison M’88 oversees more than 30 locations where Bexar County residents receive a variety of services for mental health, wellness and substance use.
Face-to-face interactions stopped seemingly overnight, LeBlanc Jamison says, and given the “vulnerable nature of our population and criticality of their disease,” the Center pivoted quickly.
Joking about her ready use of sports terminology with staff as the Center adapted, LeBlanc Jamison led the expansion of telehealth capabilities, improved cybersecurity measures and established a work-from-home policy.
In an inversion of pre-pandemic times, more than 75% of patient interactions are now done via phone or through telehealth, LeBlanc Jamisons says. Not only that, but the Center’s “no-show” rate has plummeted and adherence to medication has improved, she says.
“I think they feel safe connecting in their homes,” LeBlanc Jamison says of patients, noting a heightened need for services because of pandemic-induced uncertainties.
Although COVID-19 has certainly brought its fair share of challenges, she says one upside has been a greater public recognition of mental health and combating a persistent stigma for those seeking treatment. That also extends to substance use disorders.
Increased conversations around mental health and substance use are key to breaking down common misconceptions, LeBlanc Jamison says.
“As we grow the ability to talk about and embrace mental health and substance use as a disease and support those in need of treatment, we’ll be much better off,” she says, noting an influx in new patients as people cope with everything from job loss to family deaths to a new learning environment for students.
LeBlanc Jamison—the former executive vice president and chief delivery officer for CPS Energy—found her way to the Center from retirement, called to give back to her adopted city of San Antonio. A Louisiana native, she came to the Alamo City for her master’s in urban studies. Although she originally entertained plans to attend law school, things changed when Earl Lewis—Trinity’s first tenured Black professor—came on a recruiting trip to Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge. Lewis, director of Trinity’s urban studies program, struck up a conversation with LeBlanc Jamison, then a senior, and convinced her law school could wait.
At the encouragement of her mother, LeBlanc Jamison decided to stay in San Antonio for an internship required by the program.
“I accepted her advice and I took an internship with the City of San Antonio and 24 years later, I retired as deputy city manager,” she says, laughing.
Trinity’s reputation for producing leaders who can successfully run cities stems largely from Lewis’ tenure, LeBlanc Jamison says. She remembers not only his booming voice, but also his passion for teaching and challenging students to think more broadly about the different aspects of government and inclusion.
“He used to say, ‘Politics permeates all systems,’” LeBlanc Jamison recalls. “He would challenge us to think beyond those aspects of government that we assumed entering the program.”
Today, LeBlanc Jamison also serves as a member of Trinity’s Board of Trustees. After President Anderson approached her about joining the body, LeBlanc Jamison accepted, not only because it offered an opportunity for her to give back to the school, but also because of her mother’s decades-long career in higher education.
“It was an opportunity for me to enjoy an aspect of her life and get to know more about it,” she says. LeBlanc Jamison complimented Anderson’s diversification of the board, which she calls “a very safe environment to have very robust conversations.”
In particular, one thing LeBlanc Jamison is tracking closely are conversations at Trinity around diversity and inclusion and how she can offer her voice to that space. Back in June 2020, Anderson created the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in an effort to foster a more inclusive future for the university.
“That’s a goal of mine because I do believe in the Trinity mission and I believe in their genuine efforts to enhance that experience for all at Trinity,” LeBlanc Jamison says. “And I’m hoping to be a part of that.”
Photography by Anh-Viet Dinh '15