Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS) originally launched employment services at our group homes – by giving clients who lived there the opportunity to earn money by fulfilling grounds keeping or janitorial duties. Our current programs are funded by the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD), Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OHMAS), and the United Way.
Over the years, our employment programs have been developed to assist more GCBHS clients with finding and keeping jobs. GCBHS believes that work doesn’t follow recovery – work produces recovery! Says Hamilton County Director of Employment & Recovery Services Kelly Smith-Trondle (right), “When I train new staff, I ask them… how old were you when you got your first job, how much did you make? Then I want them to consider what our clients might have been doing at that age. Some were experiencing their first psychotic break and trying to finish high school, or dropping out because it was overwhelming.”
She wants staff to remember that many of our clients have never worked before, so they do not have the skills that most of us take for granted. She explains “A lot of what we’re doing is teaching clients what we learned at our first job. Interview skills, making resumes. We look at a person’s interests, abilities, preferences and determine what the best job match would be for them. We also work with the employers to find out what their needs are.”
In addition, GCBHS provides job supports and coaching, so staff can accompany a client to the job site to learn the job or work on skills they are having difficulty mastering. Says Kelly, “We will go to work with a client and help train, or follow up after a shift to see if they need help. Sometimes we intervene on their behalf with an employer and sometimes we have no contact at all. Our clients determine what they want as far as support.”
The employment team also gives support to a client who is working steadily but needs extra assistance or help those who want career advancement. “We ask them, ‘What do you want to do long-term?’ and then help them find a career,” says Kelly. “This is especially important for younger clients who have a whole lifetime of work opportunities ahead of them.”
The principals the GCBHS Employment program follows are based on a model called Individual Placement and Support – Supported Employment (IPS-SE) which LifePoint Solutions (which merged with GCBHS in 2014) began using in 2006. Joyce Weddle started as the Director of Employment Services in Clermont County in March of 2000. “A new recovery model was being implemented for mental health that focused on recovering roles lost. It allowed people to believe ‘I can recover my housing, my employment, my life!’ That led OHMAS to award grants to three sites to launch the IPS model. Our Amelia office was one of those.”
“We instill hope and we cheerlead them on. If they lose a job, we keep going. It’s a very positive strength based model." Joyce Weddle
The new model focused more on the client and not the job. Says Joyce, “We instill hope and we cheerlead them on. If they lose a job, we keep going. It’s a very positive strength based model. If we concentrate on the right job, the right amount of hours, in the right environment with the right supports…people can work.” She continues, “When you are in recovery, work gives you back your identity and purpose. It connects you to your community.”
The IPS model has been successful for organizations who have implemented it, showing higher rates of success for putting people with a mental health condition to work, when compared to those who do not use it. Employers who participate are not charged for any of the services that are provided to them or the client.
Joyce says another positive is that if something is going on with a client, many times the employment team may be the first to know, “If someone may be having an issue with their mental health and it happens on the job, the employer may contact us. Then we can call the care manager to follow up
in case there is something more serious going on.”
The GCBHS Employment Team consists of staff in Hamilton and Clermont counties. Each full-time employment specialist carries a caseload of 20 – 25 clients. Most are integrated into care management teams so the employment staff can build a relationship not only with the client, but with the client’s care manager as well. That way, they both know what is going on with the individual person. Some of these people are newer clients who need help with interviewing, resume writing, job searches, etc. and others are maintaining stable employment and want to touch base when they need assistance.
According to Joyce, “How much help they need depends on the person. Some have a master’s degree, and some have never worked before. So, their skill sets are different. We do an assessment which is similar to taking a snapshot of who they are right now. We do job searches, job development and job placements and work closely with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). Once they have a job, we offer support until they get to the point where they tell us they are prepared to handle things on their own."