A local pilot project which assists people with mental health issues to enter the labour market and obtain employment will now be a permanent program. The program is a result of collaboration between the Mental Health and Addiction Regional Centre (MHARC) at Hawkesbury and District General Hospital and the Employment Services Centre of Prescott-Russell (CSEPR). The announcement of the program becoming permanent, and a report on the success of the pilot project, was made on October 27.

“We can offer more services through collaboration with the hospital,” CSEPR Director-General Caroline Arcand said.

The pilot project enabled people with mental health issues to access the labour market through joint clinical mental health services and employment services. A total of 13 people participated in the pilot project, 10 of them completed the program, and nine of them obtained employment. The types of jobs the individuals obtained are in personal support services, retail, and landscaping.

Participants in the program must be age 16 and greater and wanting to work. A team of MHARC and CSEPR personnel work together to assist the clients and develop employment possibilities for them to pursue. For clients, components of the program may include psychotherapy, counselling, addictions, and clinical management. Clients are often receiving Ontario Disability Support Pension benefits prior to them entering the program. The program aims to serve people who want employment and routine in their lives, but also respects their specific needs.

“We respect the needs of the clients,” said CSEPR Employment Counsellor Lynda Tessier.

The CSEPR has identified the need to allocate financial and human resources with expertise in the field for the future success of the program and is awaiting a response from the federal government for support.

“We hope the federal government responds favourably to this model,” said CSEPR Board Chair Lionel Renaud.

The CSEPR is continuing the program, while still waiting for a decision from the federal government. The federal grant, which has been anticipated for almost a year, would allow the CSEPR to offer the service to more clients, and to continue gathering evidence-based data so that programs like it could possibly be offered in other parts of the province and the country.