Vocational rehab, youth mental health get council's focus

Posted 4/22/19

Rehabilitation services for the disabled was the topic of interest discussed by the Tennessee Department of Human Services at Monday’s Bradley County Interagency Council meeting.

The two …

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Vocational rehab, youth mental health get council's focus


Rehabilitation services for the disabled was the topic of interest discussed by the Tennessee Department of Human Services at Monday’s Bradley County Interagency Council meeting.

The two representative speakers were Beau Matthews and Becky Sneed, who explained the various services the department provides through its vocational rehabilitation program.

The VR program provides a variety of individualized services to persons with disabilities, to prepare them for employment in the competitive labor market. According to Sneed, VR advocates employment outcomes for clients that are consistent with their individual strengths, resources, abilities, capabilities and informed choice.

Sneed added how she always asks people who come to their offices two questions: “Do you have a disability?” and “Do you want to go to work?”

“We need to know if they’re able to work in the condition they come to us in. If they are, we train them to go into work. Maybe they want to change. Maybe they’ve had a job, but thanks to physical or mental issues, they may need a new job. So we can offer counseling for that and help them go back to school if they meet eligibility requirements,” Sneed said.

The services offered include counseling and guidance; training; maintenance and transportation; transition services from school to work; personal care assistance; rehabilitation technology services; job placement; post-employment services; supported employment; and independent living services.

Transportation is one of the most requested services, but once clients get their own jobs, they are then given two more weeks of transportation assistance before they are responsible for their own rides.

Special services are also offered for the deaf and hard of hearing and the blind and visually impaired. To aid with this, there are 17 rehabilitation centers throughout the state, including one in Cleveland.

Matthews says one demographic they work with is young people, and says they see a large number of recent high school graduates who’ve never worked a job before. Through the program, these people are taught how to clock in and out, talk to a supervisor and various other job-related tasks they may have never encountered before.

“If they go and get a job right out of high school and don’t know what they’re doing, they’re going to lose that job; so, we try really hard to build confidence in them about these skills. When they leave, their heads are held high, and they go out and get good jobs,” Sneed said.

Since the government is trying to attract the attention of new graduates, DHS also provides pre-employment transition services for ages 14-22. This involves going into schools and working on job exploration, work-based learning, workplace readiness, self advocacy and enrollment assistance with soon-to-graduate students.

Matthews says the key is to guide the students into a field they’d enjoy doing, but one that is also obtainable.

He added how they have numerous older clients with no living skills, which is why the TRC of Smyrna provides independent living in a college-like setting to teach these people useful skills in a safe environment. As an abbreviated program, it starts out in a dorm environment, with the possibility of graduating into an apartment.

Following Matthews and Sneed’s time, Jennifer Hennessee, a marketing representative with Sequel Youth and Family Services, outlined the therapeutic benefits of Norris Academy, a facility north of Knoxville that specializes in mental health.

“We have facilities all over the country, which sees clients ages 6 to 17,” Hennessee said.

The facility specializes in those with neurodevelopment disorders. Many are on the autism spectrum, and some have learning issues, with several of these people having IQs below 70 and as low as 50.

Norris is intended for children who’ve received care in-home, but need something more effective, she said.

Accepting both males and females, the facility features a 24-hour registered nurse on-site, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist and much more.

“We work with all insurance plans, even Medicaid,” Hennessee added.

The organization features 63 beds, and was recently opened in July. There is also a unit for adjusting children to the facilities, especially if they’re new and frightened.

The goal for treatment is to hold it to within a six-month window, but children can remain longer if further treatment is required.

Norris receives many children from DHS, but is given referrals as well.

For more information about the Tennessee Department of Human Services VR program, give them a call at 615-313-4891.

To learn more about Norris Academy, contact Hennessee at 615-339-6808.

The Bradley County Interagency Council will meet again on May 20, 2019, at Cleveland State Community College. 


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