LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Meet the multi-talented and remarkable Jan Bidwell.
She’s a mother, author, bass player, ordained minister and the Lansing Police Department’s first and only social worker, a position she’s held for three years amidst a 40-year career that she’s always been passionate about.
Jan says nothing could have prepared her for the trauma she’s seen day in and day out as an LPD social worker.
“I’ve seen things that I, I never could have imagined before. And I’ve worked in tough areas and tough populations, but we have no services for them. We have nothing for them. They shuffle in between law enforcement and community mental health. It’s a tremendous amount of suffering, you do the best you can,” said Bidwell.
It was her job to talk with the citizens of Lansing who came into contact with law enforcement about their problems, including homelessness, substance addiction, mental illness, and trauma.
Oftentimes she would go to hospitals, jails, homes and onto the streets to interact with the homeless, all while putting her personal health at risk because of the pandemic, but she never stopped.
“Parts of my childhood were very difficult, very painful, and people helped me. So I feel an obligation to help people as well,” she said.
Always wanting to make a difference, especially when it comes to being there for people suffering trauma, Jan sacrificed much of her personal time, taking phone calls from police officers both day and night, and answering emails in the early morning hours when someone was in.
Jen makes serving her community a priority. She volunteers on the Ingham County Opioid Abuse Prevention Initiative, the Ingham County Board of Health and the Lansing Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force.
“I’m grateful internally that I’m able to feel a sense of gratitude for all the gifts, because I’ve been given tremendous gifts in my life to be able to share those, to be a part of the solution, to be a part of the answer in any community that it really lifts me up,” said Jan.
Jan’s husband James says she’s a role model for anyone considering a career in social work.
When asked what advice she would have for a younger version of herself:
“You’re good enough, your desire to do the next right thing is enough. That’s the best for you right now. And if you don’t succeed, then you know that that’s not your path, it’ll lead you somewhere else.”
Jen knows that fork in the road well. She’s tried her hand at many things, including a run for political office. Over the years she’s come to believe that if you see an opportunity, explore it and never stop becoming,
“I think as women, sometimes we think we have to live up to an outer standard. That’s just unrealistic. We all have strengths, so look at yourself and honor that strength in you and then, and then feel grateful for it. It’s a blessing,” said Jan.