Before working with Vinfen, George struggled with homelessness, keeping a job, and taking care of his mental health. “Economic stability has been hard,” George shared. But now, with the support of Employment Specialist and Certified Work Incentive Counselor Sarah Cowart, George not only has found a place to live, but he is working with a financial advisor to save money to buy a home of his own. George drives for a rideshare company and is starting to think about going back to school so he can help others going through the same struggles. “My goals are falling into place,” said George. “I’m a lot more hopeful than I was a year ago. Having someone in your corner saying ‘yes, you can accomplish this’ is extremely helpful and motivating.”
“I’m really proud of him,” said Sarah. “He has come a long way this year. He is slowly becoming his own advocate.”
George is just one of 3,000 individuals participating in the Supported Employment Demonstration, a six-year study funded by the US Social Security Administration. Study participants, like George, are people who are already receiving disability benefits for a mental illness. The demonstration’s purpose is to examine how employment services combined with integrated behavioral health care and social services can help people with mental illness work toward a career. The study is looking into employment since most people with mental illness want to work, see it as a part of their recovery, and a way off disability benefits. “It is not just about getting people jobs, but getting them careers and helping them live independently,” states Team Leader and Care Manager Christa Mullaly.
Vinfen was selected to be the Metro-Boston site. Like Sarah, each staff member works hard to connect people to resources that may help them in their quest for better employment. Already, Vinfen is seeing success with 75 of their 80 participants actively engaging in the study within the past year. The demonstration’s findings could have a huge impact. If results show participants are more successful in finding and obtaining employment, the Social Security Administration may have all people with mental illness on disability enrolled in the program.