In her role as vice president and COO of SalusCare, a Fort Myers nonprofit provider of mental and behavioral health care services, Jessica Plazewski has had to navigate one of the most challenging eras for her industry in recent memory: the pandemic.
“A lot of it has been trying to figure out what our new normal is going to be,” says Plazewski. “We had a lot of pivoting to do.”
Like many other mental and behavioral health care companies, SalusCare quickly shifted to a telehealth model. Plazewski, however, believes it’s too soon to tell whether that method of care delivery will become prevalent in the future.
“We saw a certain percentage of people who were relieved when we started offering in-person services again,” she says. “But there’s a percent of people who’d much rather have their care from their comfort of their home. It’s going to be interesting over the next couple of years, quite honestly, because we don't really know what the new normal is, and all our data and information might not even be relevant. I don't quite know what to expect other than the demand for technology is going to remain high.”
Plazewski has been with SalusCare since 2008, when it was known as Lee Mental Health Center, starting as an intern and working her way up. During that time, she’s helped many patients who are dealing with severe mental illness brought on by emotional trauma, drug addiction and other causes. It’s a difficult line of work, to be sure, and she’s glad the stigma surrounding mental health has recently shown signs of dissipating — though more progress remains to be achieved.
Plazewski is motivated and inspired not only by the work SalusCare does, but by the organization’s CEO, Stacey Cook, who is also her mentor. Plazewski says Cook is a “transformative leader” who both gives constructive feedback and is “unfailingly supportive.”
"She has taught me to advocate, never give up, and stick true to what our mission and vision is without compromising our ethical and moral obligations,” Plazewski writes in her 40 under 40 questionnaire. “She has taught me to be a better person, a better clinician, and a better leader."