Unemployment Assistance for Mentally Ill

Unemployment Assistance for Mentally Ill

Recent research says four out of five mentally ill people receiving public health services are unemployed, and the number is higher in Pennsylvania.
ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY --  A recent report says 80 percent of mentally ill people who receive public services are unemployed and that number is even higher in our state.
 
Christa McDonald is mentally ill and attends Skills of Central PA to help look for a job. She's applied to 50, and hasn't found one yet.
 
Christa McDonald said, "I started looking for about a year now."
 
The high rate nationwide is not new news to Tawny Detwiler with Skills of Central PA.
 
Tawny Detwiler said, "It does not surprise me. Not at all."
 
The report says the Pennsylvania unemployment rate for mentally ill people is even higher -- among the top 5 in the country. It's at 90.6%. The people at Skills said it's because of a lack of transportation. They said a lot of the people they work with can't drive and the state is very rural.
 
Detwiler said, "It's very difficult at times for employers to understand that yes maybe the person has a disability, but let's take the dis out of that. These people have many wonderful abilities."
 
Other experts say this number can be misleading. Mark Frederick with UPMC Altoona said plenty of people suffer from mental illness but don't go through the public health system.
 
Mark Frederick, a supervisor at UPMC Altoona, said, "There's millions of people in our community and everywhere around the country who have varying levels of mental illness."
 
Bill Krill, a counselor, said "I think to discount people for any disability is just a mistake on the part of the employer. They may be passing up someone who could be a fantastic employee."
 
It still leaves people like Christa applying for jobs and hoping someplace will give her a chance.
 
Detwiler said, "We all want to feel wanted and needed and working does that for people."
 
For information about Skills of Central PA, you can visit their website.
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