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Reintegration & Recovery >> First Person
Kenny at Work
Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Kenny began going to Skyland Trail - a comprehensive treatment facility in Atlanta (GA) for persons with serious mental illness - nearly three years ago. This decision would prove significant in his road to recovery and reintegration.
Recognizing that meaningful work is one of the mandates for true reintegration, Kenny's counselor at Skyland Trail was soon working hard to identify a job that would serve both Kenny's needs and those of an appropriate area employer. A match was made, and Kenny began a successful affiliation with the Atlanta-based Georgia chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Says Kenny, "My counselor, doctor, and family talked me into moving forward. The Society gave me the chance." Kenny's work with the Society involved clerical duties and assistance with programs and fundraising events.
"Once I started working at the chapter office," Kenny notes, "I kept going back and getting to know the people there. I ended up learning both specific work skills and some valuable 'people skills'."
Kenny had at one time been a receptionist for another employer, but the workload had put too much pressure on him. He found the job arranged for him by Skyland Trail to be much less stressful - and thus more conducive to recovery.
Jennifer Butner, Development Manager at the Society's chapter office, used Kenny's talents on a volunteer basis for nearly 2_ years - the first link-up between her agency and Skyland Trail. Unlike some other Skyland Trail matches, this one did not utilize the Georgia Department of Labor as an intermediary; instead, says Ms. Butner, it resulted from a direct one-to-one relationship between the chapter office and Skyland Trail.
At the beginning of Kenny's work experience with the Society, there was significant program oversight by the Skyland Trail staff, and supervision of Kenny was carried out mainly by that organization. But as the success of the relationship became evident, the Society's chapter office was able to assume full supervisory responsibility for Kenny. In short order, the experiment became essentially a self-running program that, according to Ms. Butner, worked very smoothly.
For Kenny, the experience was decidedly fruitful. "I split my time between Skyland Trail and the National MS Society chapter office," he notes, "and I made lots of personal progress."
"The Society office is a great place to be," Kenny continues. "It was wonderful to work with these people - they're happy and they're healthy, and that helped me a lot."
Kenny made so much progress through the program that he is now actively investigating formal vocational training and placement through the state's Department of Labor. He looks forward to moving as quickly as possible into a regular job at a good wage.
As with all successful programs of this type, the benefits were not one-sided. For a match to work over the long term, the employer must benefit, as well. No one has any doubts about Kenny's contributions to the Society's chapter office.
"Kenny was a valuable part of our team," says Jennifer Butner. "He was always here, and we could count on his excellent work ethic. There were always lots of requests for his time."
For the National MS Society chapter office, the placement experiment was a definite success story. Says Ms. Butner, "While we could never replace Kenny, we'd definitely take another referral from Skyland Trail."
The placement was clearly a success for Kenny, as well. Perhaps one the greatest benefits the program ultimately provided him was simply the chance to step outside of himself and put his illness into perspective. Says Kenny, "I think I got the most satisfaction from helping others without feeling a need to ask for anything in return. There is no question that the program really made a difference for me."