The population of those individuals diagnosed with mental illness is one of the most vastly underserved in the Commonwealth of Virginia, especially in the areas of vocational training. Most State agencies have limited resources, and are understaffed. The Virginia Department of Medical Services (Medicaid) has no programs designed to assist individuals with mental illness in the area of job/vocational training. The Virginia Medicaid Waiver does offer a limited job-skills program to individuals with developmental/intellectual disabilities ONLY, namely Supported Employment. In order to qualify for this program, individuals must qualify for the Medicaid Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver, which is a lengthy process. It is not unusual for an individual to be on the ID Waiver Waiting List for several years.
In order to meet this vocational need, Starke Behaviroal Health Association, Inc., has developed a vocational training program that will assist individuals in learning skills necessary to work in the food service indurstry. The program will operate under the name "The Happy Possum Hideaway Eatery" and will be a full service cafe providing breakfast and lunch, and dinner.
In the beginning “The Happy Possum Hideaway Eatery” will be managed and operated with employees experienced in the food service industry. Our goal is to train some of the targeted group of individuals in management skills and have them take over some of the skilled management duties. The Association is organized as a non-profit corporation and no individual has any proprietary interest in its earning. The Café will operate in a manner similar to profit-making businesses, however will be organized and operated exclusively for the training of individuals with mental health disabilities to improve and develop their capabilities. The Café’s gross earnings will be used to pay salaries and other customary operating expenses incurred in the operation of a restaurant first. All earnings above these costs will be used to expand training and support to the identified population.
For the on-the-job training program, the Association will only select individuals with a mental health and/or intellectual disability as diagnosed by a mental health professional. The on-the-job training will include: development of interpersonal and social skills necessary to work in a public setting, skills related to various positions within a restaurant (management, cook, host/wait staff, commercial dishwashing, safe food handling, janitorial, etc.), and resume and interviewing skills. The training will be provided on-the-job and through classroom interaction.
The training will be administer by both mental health professionals and paraprofessionals, trained in mental health and intellectual disability diagnoses, as well as psychosocial rehabilitation of this population. The training will be supervised by a Licensed Mental Health Professional. The training will be individualized according to the severity of the individual’s disability therefore there is no specific time limit on the duration of training. Progress (or lack of) will be reviewed by training staff and supervision on a weekly basis.
The Association does not plan for the majority of the trainees to continue as its employees. Rather, they are expected to seek employment elsewhere in the food service industry and new trainees selected for the program. As part of this training program, the Association will provide job search assistance and job coaching in the workplace in order to increase the individual’s chance of workplace success. This assistance will continue as long and/or as often as they need it to continue to be a contributing member of society.
If you would like to make a donation to his worthy cause, please call us at 434-292-1104, X5. We hope to open the Cafe by late spring/early summer 2018. Thank you for reading about The Happy Possum Hideway Eatery."