Service provider Rick Johnson has witnessed the transformative nature of work and how it supports, promotes recovery

—by Matthew K. Weiland and Paul M. Kubek

Sandusky, OH—Getting people placed in meaningful work environments has long been a passion of Rick Johnson, one that can be heard in the enthusiasm of his voice. An employment specialist at The Giving Tree in Sandusky and Port Clinton, Ohio, Johnson serves people who live in Erie, Ottowa, and Sandusky counties. He has been a service provider for over 25 years and is passionate about the transformative nature of work and Supported Employment's ability to help individuals recovering from mental health and substance use disorders.

Johnson attended the Annual Ohio Supported Employment Conference 2009, which was sponsored by the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University and held in March in Columbus. He answered our open invitation to conference participants to share their lessons-learned stories and consumer recovery stories.

Our Work Is Our Identity (1m 16s)

The Giving Tree provides employment and mental health recovery services to a wide variety of people, including ex-offenders, veterans, and people diagnosed with severe mental illness, substance use disorders, and mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

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Consumer-Centered Approach (51s)

Johnson begins his relationship with consumers by explaining that he works for them.

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Consumer Success Story, Part 1: Trust (1m 42s)

Johnson has helped numerous individuals find part-time and full-time jobs over the course of his career. He firmly believes in zero exclusion—that each individual has the potential for employment and recovery. In this audio track, Johnson begins a success story of a consumer with co-occurring disorders who had no work history.

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Success Story, Part 2: Consumer Choice (2m 16s)

This 38-year-old male consumer was a bit of a loner who frequently missed appointments and was not "med compliant." He got a job at a pizza factory and got hooked up with a job coach. In two to three weeks, he did an about-face, becoming engaged in his recovery. He began to volunteer, sharing his work-is-recovery story with other consumers.

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Supported Employment and Follow-Along (2m 44s)

For Johnson, the core principles and components of evidence-based Supported Employment services enable him to provide a more holistic approach to consumer employment and recovery, even when there is not funding available to support a formal SE program. Johnson most notably utilizes SE's time-unlimited services and follow-along services, making phone calls to consumers to check in on them.

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The National Scene

Supported Employment (SE), the evidence-based practice, was created and is studied by researchers Deborah R. Becker, MEd, CRC, and Robert E. Drake, MD, PhD, and their colleagues at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center at Dartmouth Medical School.
They have provided leadership for national implementation of SE via the Johnson & Johnson-Dartmouth Community Mental Health Program. The State of Ohio and the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve—through its Ohio SE Coordinating Center of Excellence initiative—are participating in this national project.

Matthew K. Weiland, MA, is senior writer, producer and new-media specialist and Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University.