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Jean Olshefsky: Inspiring Change in Behavioral Health with Advocacy, Support, and Experience

Elevance Health Impact May 28, 2024

A former Division I softball player whose shortstop and second base skills landed her in Europe’s professional league, Jean Olshefsky channels that same spirit of determination and teamwork into her role at Carelon Behavioral Health.

Olshefsky is director of recovery and advocacy for the Georgia Collaborative Administrative Services Organization (ASO), a Carelon Behavioral Health partner company. She is also a program consultant for Carelon Behavioral Health and a peer crisis support expert in its crisis center of excellence. Her multi-faceted roles present daily curveballs, but she adapts to meet the challenges and opportunities that come her way. “My days are never the same, and I love that!” she said.

Olshefsky’s work includes supervising recovery services, informing opportunities to improve behavioral health systems, developing and facilitating training on behavioral health-related topics, and managing and supporting certified peer support specialists (CPS). She also assists with workflows and onboarding crisis line follow-up team members.

In her positions, Olshefsky candidly shares her personal journey. As a young person, she experienced depression, alcohol use, and a suicide attempt. While her professional accomplishments as an adult were significant, her challenges with mental health and substance use escalated, resulting in homelessness. Outreach to a friend led to treatment and began her road to recovery. Peer support played a vital role in her journey, and she now supports others on their paths to recovery and is a champion for a better behavioral health system.

How does your work advance Elevance Health’s purpose to improve the health of humanity?

I have the privilege of using my recovery and lived experience to support multiple teams and engage directly with care providers and members. I’m able to share insights from these interactions, along with my personal experience, when advocating for people with mental health conditions.  I feel fortunate to help inform and promote what works or assist in efforts to change what doesn't.

Is there a fulfilling experience where you realized the positive impact of your work?

YES! Almost every day! My most gratifying moments come from interacting with peers. My heart swells when a person or their family member tells me I gave them hope or they felt better after our conversation.

Any professional advice for associates?

Educate yourself, your family, and neighbors about essential resources, like the 988 crisis line, or how to obtain free naloxone or Narcan, a potentially lifesaving medication that can reverse opioid overdose. Prioritize your well-being, because it’s difficult to support others if you're running on empty. Step outside of your comfort zone and do something that you’ve always wanted to do. I usually feel vulnerable or uncertain at first, but I gain confidence and give myself well-deserved kudos!

How would you describe Elevance Health's culture?

Our culture truly embodies the phrase “Walk the talk.” I work in the Atlanta office, and it’s refreshing to see an environment that encourages wellness and has spaces where associates can take breaks and rejuvenate, like the outdoor terrace to take in the sunshine. It’s important to work hard but also recharge to remain productive. Another aspect of Elevance Health that I value is the emphasis on volunteering and giving back to our communities.

Tell us about your volunteer work or community involvement.

I’m a board member of R2ISE Inc., a peer-led, nonprofit Recovery Community Organization (RCO) that focuses on recovery through arts. I was thrilled to be able to use my background in production to create a video about the ‘Comfort of Recovery’ quilt, handcrafted by R2ISE members and displayed in places across Georgia. Additionally, I’m chair of the Georgia Behavioral Health Planning and Advisory Council’s adult mental health committee, and I support nonprofits that work to meet the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

What are your interests or favorite activities?

I barbeque chicken and ribs with my own sauce, and I even won a BBQ contest! I enjoy music, photography, and sports. In addition to playing softball, I was a state champion in squash and platform tennis. Staying true to my Michigan roots, I love supporting the Detroit Tigers and the Lions!

How do you maintain your personal health and well-being?

Laughter is essential to my well-being. I love to laugh! My friends all know to wait until I’m done laughing before moving on in the conversation. I enjoy being out in nature and exercising, especially walking along the Appalachian Trail.

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