Compass sets direction for mental health clients


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Besides the paycheck, a good job keeps most of us happy, builds confidence, and even means making friends and enjoying interaction. But for some people who’ve battled a mental health problem a good job can feel out of reach.

A local program has helped dozens of people connect with the right employer.

Kim Allen laughs easily now as she cares for her 2-year-old granddaughter. It’s hard to imagine just a few years ago she was in a depression so deep it put her in the hospital.

“At that time I isolated myself. I stayed in the house and I didn’t do anything with people. Today, I am able to do that,” Allen said.

Allen credits her new outlook to Compass Family and Community Solutions for mental health counseling and eventually hooking her up with her job. She’s now one of 145 workers at Classic Optical in Liberty, helping to fill thousands of eyeglass prescriptions a day.

Melissa Toot is a job developer at Compass. She works to find employers willing to give people with mental health problems a chance.

The program is almost like an internship at first with the salary paid through Compass with federal money from a program for Ohioans with Disabilities.

“We go to employment sites and they do a specific task say for 20 days where the wage is paid but it gives the company an opportunity to see if that person fits in the company and the job task,” said Toot.

The program worked for Allen. In just two years, she’s now a supervisor on her shift.

Compass Executive Director Joe Caruso admits it’s not 100 percent, but it is worth the effort.

“Does it always work out? No. But the majority of the time it does just like any other employee that walks into a place and applies,” Caruso said. “We have a lot more information on that individual to help them succeed in their employment.”

At Classic Optical they admit there was a stigma at first. Manager Amy Barnes said they didn’t want to become babysitters but after several successes they all learned something.

“Take a chance. It is worth it. You end up with some of the best associates,” Barnes said.

Allen said addressing your problems and dealing with them is the first step in the right direction. The worst thing is to hide the problem.

“As long as you hide it you can’t deal with your problems. There is nothing wrong with counseling or talking with family members or close friends because if you continue to hide it, you continue to be sick,” Allen said.

For more information on Compass Family and Community Solutions call 330-480-4384.

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