BBJ: Sheppard Pratt expanding workforce training pipeline with $250K grant

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By Ethan McLeod 
November 18, 2020

From his standpoint at Sheppard Pratt, Scott Rose has noticed two very apparent and ongoing needs, both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic: steady work for those diagnosed with mental illness, and open positions that employers want to fill.

During a tough year for employers and job-seekers alike, a recent $250,000 grant from the SunTrust Charitable Irrevocable Trust has been a timely boon for the mental health services provider. The funding, announced last week, will help expand the work of Sheppard Pratt’s Vocational Services Program, which served nearly 2,000 people last year alone. The funding has already paid for new equipment for the commercial kitchen facility at Sheppard Pratt’s Veterans Services Center at 234 S. Broadway, where veterans learn culinary skills while simultaneously keeping others fed.

Sarah Norman, chief of community development for Sheppard Pratt, told the BBJ that the program’s work focuses largely on training homeless veterans dealing with mental health issues. In the last two years, the system’s Vocational Services Program was able to place 84% of its total homeless veteran clients in jobs and achieved an ideal 100% rate for those who were chronically homeless.

The center on South Broadway offers an example of “veterans helping veterans,” she said, though the facility’s kitchen near Fells Point had been in rough shape, she said. “It was not functional the way it was.”

Using $45,000 from the SunTrust grant, Sheppard Pratt was able to replace the kitchen’s refrigerator, roaster, dishwasher, fryer, range and a serving station. That work was recently completed, and the teaching kitchen is expected to be up and running again by the end of the year.

The rest of the grant will be spent helping to expand Sheppard Pratt’s job training offerings in Baltimore, including providing more job coaching and searches, teaching clients to manage symptoms of mental illness and more. Among the goals for the one-year pilot period funded by the grant are to raise the number of people employed through those programs by 64%, and to boost the employment rate among Sheppard Pratt’s clients diagnosed with serious mental illness from 35% to 50%, Rose said.

To make that happen, he said the Vocational Services Program will work to expand its employer base — companies already on that list include campus dining services provider Chartwells, Summit Building Services and Walgreens — to hire and train more Sheppard Pratt patients.

Rose noted he used to largely see mental health services providers wait until patients had been treated fully before they could begin working, but more recently he has seen providers allow patients to start working “as soon as they express a desire.”

Working amid treatment provides structure, he said, and can help motivate someone to gain a foothold for work to help set them up for the future, Rose said.

To read the complete story, visit the Baltimore Business Journal website.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

Also see: Coverage of GBC Member companies’ philanthropic responses to COVID-19