Searching for a job can be intimidating for anyone, but for those with anxiety, depression or other behavioral health issues, it can be even more of an insurmountable task. Luckily, the Center for Human Development has a program dedicated to supporting its clients in both finding and holding a job.

The Supported Employment Program at CHD helps clients look for an occupation that would best suit them and their behavioral health needs, assists in the application and interview process, and follows up with them during their employment to make sure everything is going smoothly. Anyone seeking job application assistance can apply for the program by visiting CHD and completing a pre-screening questionnaire.

Julie Fletcher, an employment and education specialist at CHD, said the program currently supports 40 clients and has a waitlist of at least 30 more, but she still encourages people to apply because spots are constantly opening.

“At the Supported Employment Program, job appointments are customized to the client’s needs,” she said. “It’s very client driven, but we also get to know employers to pair them better with employees.”

Kory Escobar, who works alongside Fletcher as another employment and education specialist at CHD, highlighted the individual placement mindset as the program’s defining quality.

“This isn’t a normal job placement program,” he said. “We find jobs that clients are interested in doing. Sometimes employers will even carve out special positions based on a particular client’s skills.”

Monica Nickel, 22, is a freshman at Eastern Oregon University studying creative writing. She first came to the Supported Employment Program in 2016 on a CHD therapist’s referral and was one of the program’s earliest successes, according to Fletcher.

Ever since middle school, Nickel said, she’s struggled with anxiety, depression and self-confidence. She wanted to find a job but the process was too daunting. But once Fletcher paired her with an employer — EOU chef Ron Wheeler — in late 2017, Nickel found confidence in herself and her employability.

“Finding and getting a job were aspects I lacked before coming to the program,” said Nickel, who is a cashier and food service worker at Mac’s Grill on EOU’s campus. “The CHD gives me the support that I need to succeed.”

Fletcher, who personally oversees Nickel’s case, said she has seen a definite improvement in Nickel’s confidence since she started the job with Wheeler at EOU.

“Her confidence just wasn’t there at first,” she said. “She’s almost at full-time now, and the Monica I met two years ago didn’t feel like she was able to do that. She is a completely different person.”

Not only did Fletcher help Nickel find her confidence and a job, but she also helped the student apply to EOU in the first place through the Supported Education Program, an offshoot of supported employment that assists clients who want to further their education. Now that she’s at EOU, Nickel can follow her dreams of becoming either a novelist or a video game story writer — she hasn’t decided which one yet.

“I didn’t understand what the (college) application was asking for, and navigating that can be a challenge,” Nickel said. “But Julie helped me with the application process and even met with my academic adviser a few times. She is there for whatever I need.”

Contact Amanda Weisbrod at 541-963-3161 or aweisbrod@lagrandeobserver.com

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