Milwaukee County is rolling out the Independent Supported Employment Program this fall. Agencies have been chosen and people have been selected to become employment specialists. These will be individuals assisting people with severe and persistent mental illness obtain jobs. But there are many obstacles in the way of this project becoming successful including the job shortage. There are not enough jobs for everyone who wants one. One of the fields where jobs seem to be growing is in peer support. Thee agencies Milwaukee County contracts with to provide services have been hiring certified peer specialists. But not every one of the people seeking employment who is signed up for the new independent supported employment program wants to be a peer specialist. And they may not be qualified. Simply having a mental illness does not mean you can pass along recovery to anyone else.
One idea I would suggest is talking with the people who have obtained jobs to learn how they found them? With what agency? Is it fast food? What role did the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation play? What companies have been hiring people with mental illness and are people disclosing their mental illness to their employers? I would also ask the agencies contracted with DVR about what kind of results they have been having.
We have a shortage of jobs but at the same time people are being hired and changing jobs. This process is taking place at the same time that news broadcasts highlight the growth of the number of people receiving social security disability. CBS 60 Minutes, for example, did a story a few weeks ago suggesting that disability is making up for the job shortage thanks to crooked attorneys. The story included a few disgruntled former employees.
What is clear is that I have assisted some people at my agency in applying for DVR and a couple of them obtained jobs but did not hold onto them. However, I still have active job seekers. They will probably be transferred to the new independent supported employment program. So the question will be how successful will this new program be in meeting their needs?
- Mental health stigma poses employment barrier, but jobs key to staying healthy: Report (metronews.ca)