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Don Levinson

Don Levinson is chairman of the Regional Mental Health Center's board of directors.

The offices of North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan provide support to those who have fallen on hard times, and these offices often serve citizens with serious mental illness.

To help remove mental illness as a potential barrier to employment and prosperity, Mrvan and the Regional Mental Health Center began a partnership in February to provide mental health services at the township offices in Hammond and East Chicago. This partnership will help low-income residents receive the support they need to get their lives and careers back on track.

The unemployment rate for people with serious mental illness is commonly reported to range from 70 to 90 percent. This is a problem because productive work is a leading component in promoting positive mental health.

Of all the people with disabilities, those with a serious mental illness face the greatest barriers to employment, such as gaps in work history, limited employment experience, lack of confidence, fear and anxiety, workplace discrimination and inflexibility, and social stigma and rejection.

Because of the collaboration with Regional Mental Health Center, a person visiting the North Township trustee’s offices need not make an extra trip to get behavioral health services. If someone believes they have issues with depression or stress or substances, a clinician is right there to give them information and can even enroll them in services.

Another benefit for the community members who qualify is that North Township trustee will cover the cost of up to four visits to Regional for treatment, so the monetary barrier is reduced. After the fourth visit, Regional’s reduced fee scale will be used.

Each week on Thursday mornings, a Regional Mental Health Center therapist is in the trustee’s office, alternating between the locations in Hammond and East Chicago. If a person comes to the trustee’s office with a behavioral health need on a day when Regional is not on site, the township can still assist by providing a referral and voucher for treatment at Regional. The individual may then make an appointment at their convenience.

Participation in meaningful, paid work is a basic human right, and people who experience serious mental illness should have the same access to fundamental elements of citizenship such as housing, education, income and employment as anyone else.

Whether seen at a North Township trustee’s office or at Regional facility, this collaboration ensures those in the community who need treatment can receive it, so they can participate productively in their community.

Don Levinson is chairman of the Regional Mental Health Center's board of directors. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.