For Immediate Release
Clients say pilot program makes difference
When Richard Lewis came to the ACT-IPS program in Sumter about a year ago, he was at his wit's end. He was broke, he couldn't hold a job and he had nowhere else to turn.
ACT-IPS--Assistive Community Treatment-Individual Placement and Support--is a cooperative program between the South Carolina departments of Mental Health and Vocational Rehabilitation. Funded by a grant from Johnson & Johnson, the Sumter program is one of three pilots in the United States operated in cooperation with the Dartmouth Partnership for Community Mental Health,
The philosophy is to support the recovery of people with severe mental illness by helping them get competitive work in their communities.
Lewis, 37, had been a Vocational Rehabilitation client off and on for several years but he kept getting laid off from jobs he was placed in. Drugs and alcohol had taken a toll on his mental health and he also has diabetes.
Things got so bad at one point that he had to wear paper bags on his feet because he'd sold his shoes.
A six-day diabetic coma convinced him it was time to quit drugs and alcohol, but he still had emotional problems and diabetes to deal with.
Clients in the program receive medical and mental health support along with job search and job placement assistance and on-the-job training.
That kind of support is essential for Lewis.
He's been sober since February and has been working at The Item newspaper in Sumter for four months, loading newspapers and helping out wherever else he's needed.
Lewis works 30 hours a week and is "doing real good," according to Item production manager Perry Griggs.
His dream is to buy a car and go back to college to pick up his studies in business and marketing.
Where would he be without the program?
"I'd be dead," Lewis said frankly.
Kevin Williams, 22, said he would have been headed for the State Hospital in Columbia after a breakdown two years ago had it not been for the program.
"Before the program, all people did was ask me questions," Williams said. "They didn't get to the main source of the problem."
Now, he said, he gets lots of support and positive feedback.
"They let me know I'm smart. They make sure I'm taking my meds. They make sure I'm doing the right things. And they make me feel comfortable," Williams said.
He's been working part-time as a bag boy at a local grocery store for about five or six months.
In addition to his mental disability, Williams also is dyslexic.
He said he eventually would like to work with dyslexic children because he understands them.
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health has been serving the mental health needs of South Carolinians since 1821. Its 5,300 employees and 8,505 volunteers offer services from 17 community mental health centers and seven inpatient facilities statewide. (800) 763-1024. Web site: www.mentalhealth-recovery.com