ELIZABETHTOWN — On any given day, people with all types of disabilities are finding gainful employment, thanks to the Elizabethtown-based Vocational Rehabilitation Services.
A subsidiary of the Department of Health and Human Services, VRS partners with agencies like N.C. Works and the Department of Social Services to help people with physical, sensory, mental, emotional, or learning disabilities find, get, or keep a job.
“People with chronic disabilities, for instance, may have difficulty becoming employed and run into impediments keeping their job,” said Michael Ramey, business relations manager for the site, “especially when dealing with a rural county with a limited job market.”
The agency’s two counselors — Mac Britt and Valtrice Johnson — each have a caseload of between 85 and 100 people currently being assisted.
While referrals for the agency’s services can come from sites ranging from attorneys’ offices and medical clinics to the parole system or civic organizations, Johnson — the case worker for the student population — says most of her referrals come from the school system.
“Once students are in their junior year, we try to focus on transition and pin down a goal choice and direction they want to go,” Johnson explained. “During their senior year, we monitor grades and performance to make sure they will be on a job track that’s comparable to their abilities and skills, whether that’s welding, carpentry, barber school in Raleigh, pharmaceutical sales, or an institution for higher learning.
“We really work hard for students to be successful, and I don’t think people understand that even for things like juvenile diabetes, a speech impediment, or just if they’re taking medication, there are services we offer that can help them, if they come in and talk to us,” she added.
Those services include a variety of options, most available for free. VRS evaluates clients’ medical, educational, and work history to identify disability-related barriers to employment and rehabilitation needs. They then help individuals choose a career goal and develop a plan detailing the services needed to achieve that goal, whether that’s career counseling, education and training, job placement assistance, or medical treatments and assistive technology. Counselors work with clients worried about how returning to work will affect disability benefits, providing safeguards to protect benefits while getting resources, training, and support needed for a career.
“People who come to us have to want to do it, but if they want a career, we’re able to be a partner in services to help them reach their goal,” said Ramey.
For information on eligibility, contact VRS at 910-872-5569.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.