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Phase II of the Extended Services for Individuals with Mental Illness (ESM) Environmental Site Assessments Ohio program was recently implemented in the state of Ohio. One of the most common questions I receive about ESM is whether or not the state of Ohio has employment services for people with mental illness. Here are a few quick thoughts on the topic.
Unfortunately, the state of Ohio does not have employment services for people with mental illness. However, it is still an issue and should be worked on. Both Ohio's Department of Mental Health and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services have "Theories of Care" that they use to define who should receive care. I've looked at these theories of care before and I believe they are too narrow.
The idea behind the ESM programs is that people with mental illness should have access to employment support services. In other words, they should have the ability to work in a business setting, but only if that business has an employment service plan. Unfortunately, some businesses have simply ignored this responsibility, as evidenced by my experience. This means that many of the people living with a mental illness in Ohio are falling through the cracks.
The ESM grant program provides a way to fill these gaps. ESM grants provide funding to state and local government agencies to improve employment services for people with mental illness. This is important, because it will help increase the number of people with mental illness in the workforce and make them more employable. While these grants do not provide cash to individual job seekers, they do provide money to local governments that they can use to pay to train people with mental illness.
The first thing you need to remember is that your ultimate goal is to make sure that your clients' best interest is served, and that you're working in their best interest as well. All too often, people think they're working for themselves when they're involved in employment services for people with mental illness. Remember, they're trying to do the right thing for you, so you need to be diligent in making sure they get what they're paying for.
Another important tip is to determine if your program fits the profile of an ESSA (Extended Services for Individuals with Mental Illness). Some programs, such as the "Plan it Yourself Plan" are a state program and therefore do not require an ESSA status. These programs will do well to follow state guidelines. They must also meet the General Services Administration (GSA) guidelines, which can be found here. The plan is more of a program guide than a program plan; however, it is a good place to start if you are interested in participating in an ESSA program.
Some programs require you to meet certain criteria before receiving ESM funding. Those criteria are outlined in the statutes governing these programs. The most common ones are outlined here.
You will need to have comprehensive training for clients who participate in an ESM program. ESMs are meant to give people the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. Therefore, comprehensive training is critical.
ESM programs are supposed to increase access to jobs for people with mental illness. Once again, this is what you need to focus on if you're working in an employment services role.
The state of Ohio requires that all people who participate in an ESM program must be able to do so without any assistance from support services provided by ESM. This is the most critical aspect of successful employment programs.
An employer who hires a person with mental illness is required to first make sure they meet the requirements for an ESSA. They must also make sure they meet the qualifications of the ESSA program.
While the Phase II of the ESM program in Ohio is not yet complete, you can continue to work with your clients and be a voice for those who need it most. It's a complex area that requires a broad understanding of the issues. Employment services for people with mental illness are now available to you and your clients through ESM grant programs.