GEORGE BROWN/Ponoka News
Businesspeople in Ponoka have been offered a new tool to help them meet their post-recession employment needs.
Adult inpatients in Marion House, a rehabilitative program at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, are available to work as they ease their way back into the workforce and the community.
“Our vocational program is an individualized program designed to assist clients in improving their mental health, re-engaging them in the community and supporting them in their employment skills,” occupational therapist Holly Vanjoff told chamber of commerce members last week.
Staff helps patients in the psychosocial rehabilitation program to improve their social and work skills, added therapy assistant Stephanie Stafford.
“We have adapted a client-centred approach, which is a non-medical approach,” Vanjoff said. Based on identified strengths, the client’s own goals to get back into the community drive the design of their program, which “focuses on hope, potential and future orientation.”
Staff in the Marion House program work with community employment agencies such as the federal Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities to match clients with employers.
Opportunities Fund co-ordinator Dagmar Hargreaves assists anyone with a permanent disability by providing funding to individuals, employers and organizations.
Getting back to work is an integral part of rehabilitation and she said the Opportunities Fund helps people with disabilities prepare for, obtain and maintain employment or self-employment.
“We can fund a paid work experience, which means the individual isn’t volunteering, that there is some worth attached to the skills they are learning, to the labour they are doing,” Hargreaves explained.
For inpatients with brain injury and mood disorders, going back to work helps instill pride and a sense of worth, Vanjoff said. Many inpatients cannot go back to their chosen field of employment and must be retrained. Marion House provides job coaching and training for interested businesspeople. The clients work through a probationary period.
Stafford said going back to work can be “a little scary” for inpatient workers.
“Everybody knows what it’s like going to a new job on the first day. Imagine going on your first day and struggling with an illness and you haven’t worked in so long.”
Vanjoff added staff tries to match the worker’s skills with the employer’s needs but “if the placement is not a good fit, it can be terminated immediately.”
Hargreaves said the vocation work program gives inpatients current work experience to put on their resumé. “This affords some the individual with some hands-on, real work.”
Workers are not expected to fill time on the job.
“We’re looking at a person gaining some real work skills,” Hargreaves said.
If the worker can fill a permanent position there is transitional funding available for the employer.
“What you (employers) can provide to them is more than they can imagine,” Stafford said. “They thought they could never work again.”
For more information of the psychosocial work rehabilitation program, call Holly Vanjoff at 403-783-7600, extension 1215.