UPPER KEYS PRACTITIONER OFFERS COMPASSION & CARE FOR MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES

J.L. Powers.

Ja’el (pronounced like the initials “J.L.”) Powers is in her 13th year of nursing. Throughout her career, she has worked in every specialty/department except for an ICU: a cardiac catheterization lab (a.k.a., a “cath lab”), an ER, an OR, a cardiac rehab, on the floor and as a travel nurse. But it was during her time in cardiac rehab that she had the epiphany to change her focus and become a psychiatric nurse practitioner and create her own practice, Powers Mental Health.

“In outpatient cardiac rehab, I recognized a patient I’d cared for in the cath lab,” she told Keys Weekly. “He had chest pain one morning, drove to the ER to play it safe, then suddenly he’s being rushed to the OR for emergency open-heart surgery. I still can see his dejection and pain when he broke down in tears, this strong, attractive, successful middle-aged man. He said to me, ‘You don’t prepare us for this. You fix our heart, and you send us on our way … but you don’t tell us we’re still going to be scared when it’s all said and done.’ That was the day I knew I needed to make a change. I am not alone in the realization that health care is treating the body yet neglecting the brain.”

She studied to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, who, like a psychiatrist, evaluates, diagnoses and treats patients with mental disorders. 

“I am neither pro- nor anti-medication. However, experience has taught me that positive thinking or exercise or walks to the beach are not cure-alls for everyone,” she said, explaining that suicide and opioid abuse are serious health problems in the Florida Keys. She can write prescriptions for mental health issues and can provide Suboxone, a medication-assisted treatment for those addicted to heroin and pills. 

She is passionate about lifting the stigma that is attached to mental health disorders.

“I have been personally affected,” she revealed. “I’ve had suicide and addiction in my close family, and I myself have dealt with ADHD and depression. I had an ex-boyfriend scoff that it could be fixed by a walk on the beach. I couldn’t believe how much mental illness could impact someone’s life, and to be honest with you, the stigma then and now just still baffles me.”

When she witnesses such judgment, Powers said, she remembers her mantra: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

At her practice, her focuses will include — in addition to PTSD, depression and anxiety — suicide and treating the mental health of male patients.

“We consider it a weakness when a man has feelings and sheds tears,” Powers pointed out. “So why are we surprised when they self-medicate, drink too much, get divorced — now that their jobs are affected — and/or kill themselves?” 

But at her heart, Powers is a small-town girl who was raised in the country, in Ottawa Valley, Canada. “And then I sat next to a stranger on an airplane and married him, “ she said with a laugh. 

The couple lived in South Palm Beach County for 28 years, but they visited the Florida Keys from time to time. After her husband’s death from cancer, she made the big move to the Keys.

“I planned to move to the Keys ever since my first visit in the mid-1990s,” she said. “I even fell in love with the name ‘Islamorada,’” she said, noting that she now lives and practices there. 

To make an appointment with Powers Mental Health, call 305-928-1809. Powers offers appointments at her office and/or online, or she can visit the patient’s house. Her office is located at 81905 Old Hwy., Islamorada.

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Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.