Someone living with a diagnosis of a mental illness will face numerous challenges on the road to recovery. For many, the idea of getting and holding a job can be intimidating and stressful. Since 1987, the AltaPointe Supported Employment program has been helping patients overcome the challenge of reentering the workforce.
“Working has proven to be an essential part of recovery,” Pam Maumenee, assistant director of adult services, said.
Maumenee emphasized that individuals living with mental illnesses often avoid applying for jobs because they fear losing their benefits, or they lack transportation. The supported employment team works closely with patients to understand their strengths and weaknesses, helping them establish and meet realistic, personal goals. They counsel them and help them to address these and other issues.
Supporting the employee
Nicholas, an AltaPointe patient for almost nine years, commented on how his supported employment experience had helped him achieve recovery.
“Before treatment, my life was chaotic,” he said. “It was like a roller coaster. My life was not very manageable. Now, I go to work. I socialize with other people. I deal with the community better.”
The program has played a unique role in the lives of many others who have sought to integrate into the community through work.
“Supported employment gives patients an opportunity to have someone work side–by-side with them to identify their strengths and to encourage them along the way,” Lisa Gable, supported employment specialist, said.
Nicholas had some advice for other patients in the program. “Get some help through one of the job counselors,” he said. “They’ll help get you on the right path; that’s what it took for me. If you open up to one of them, they can help you.”
‘Working is wonderful. It has made a world of difference in my life.’
Supportive Employment participants encourage others to give it a try. The services are available for any AltaPointe adult patient or local business. Call (251) 450-4301 to learn more.
Working with businesses
Counseling patients seeking work is only one part of the supported employment process. The team also works closely with local businesses. The support structure is designed to counsel the employee and assist the employer for the duration of the employment.
“Cultivating opportunities with local employers is another key element,” Gable said. “The supported employment team works tirelessly with employers helping them to understand the benefits of working with patients and encouraging them to participate
in the program.”
Gable said some employers are skeptical at first, but most will change their minds. George Catranis with Catranis Enterprises agreed.
“I had a need for an employee and had been running an ad for part-time help that had received very little interest,” Catranis said. “I got a call one day [from AltaPointe] and they explained the program to me. They said they would like us to try one of their people. They explained that there was basically no risk, and that if it didn’t work out they would completely understand.”
“AltaPointe personnel made sure our expectations were met and the employee had what they needed,” he said. “That’s awesome, and it is something they have done every time we have hired a new employee through the program.”
John, one of the individuals Catranis hired through the program, said he appreciates the opportunity and knows the difference it has made in his life.
“Having a job gives me a schedule: I get up every morning about six o’clock; I get breakfast; I walk to the bus stop, get here a little before 9 a.m.,” John said. “Lying around the house wasn’t doing me much good. I needed a schedule, so I could eat right and sleep right, take my medicine; I am not having any more problems. And, financially, I can get the kind of groceries I want.”
Another businessman, Tyrone Jackson, owner of Jackson Maintenance Service, has hired people through the supported employment program for several years and said he sincerely appreciates the staff he has hired.
“I have worked all types of odd jobs and never have I met people that put everything into their work,” Jackson said.
“Most people get a job, because they want to pay a bill. But they [supported employment employees] want to do the job just to do the job, and that makes all the difference.”
“If you can come do my job, and pretty much care about it more than I care about it, that means a lot to me.”