Government programs support mental health employees

There are many job opportunities available to mental health patients and Catholic Social Services wants to help.

Lori Mjolsness

Lori Mjolsness

There are many job opportunities available to mental health patients and Catholic Social Services wants to help.

Lori Mjolsness, with Catholic Social Services (CSS) met with members of the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce Feb. 18 to explain some of the benefits employers can find when hiring someone with developmental disabilities.

Her goal is to give individuals with disabilities a chance to work in different environments and suggests there are long-term benefits to employers when hiring one. Mjolsness was able to secure a job for one individual at Hamilton’s IGA and they have been with the company for the last 12 years.

Depending on the capacity of the person, CSS may provide regular checkups or allow people some freedom in their workplace.

“Others may have a staff person working with them at all times,” said Mjolsness.

CSS’s goal is to match individuals with businesses but needs assistance, as there are more clients than jobs available for them in the Ponoka area. “I have 10 staff that support them on the job.”

Mjolsness says there are two programs available to employers and employees: the Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) provides job search, workplace and educational supports to individuals with barriers to working.

The other is called the Opportunities Fund, a federal program, which pays for part of the wages of a person until they get up to speed.

Blain Fuller, an employment specialist who finds jobs for people with developmental disabilities, provided some insight into the benefits for both employers and employees with regard to these programs.

The DRES program may provide tools for employers willing to hire someone with a disability, he explained. “If it’s in the best interest of the person using it and the employer helps maintain or sustain employment. DRES is a great program.”

If training is needed the Opportunities Fund is a tool for individuals who need some workplace training. Employers may receive reimbursement for that training, he explained.

He added there is a provincial program called Wage Reimbursement Training, which gives any Albertan a chance to train in a new company at a new career. The program will reimburse employers for new skills training.

Fuller feel most individuals with these disabilities become long-term employees and he suggests if a company takes the time to train a person, they will be a valued worker for the company.

“These people are long-term employees. They value their jobs. They value being valued,” said Fuller.

“It’s not always about working. It’s about feeling good about what you do,” he added.