The Cedar City District Office put 350 people to work successfully last year alone, all of whom are in employment situations where they are expected to stay and be successful, according to Mindy Jepson, counseling supervisor for the Vocational Rehabilitation Cedar City office. Many of their clients are receiving education and training as students at Southern Utah University or Southwest Applied Technology Center.
Jepson is quick to add that Voc Rehab is not an entitlement program but an eligibility program so people who qualify may get what they need to be successful and be self-sufficient in the long term.
Vocational Rehabilitation provides help and services all focused on a specific career goal including, but not limited to, medical services and treatment, assistive technology – such as providing a simple automatic door opener for a quadriplegic, or an ergonomic chair that allows someone to sit at a desk.
They also provide training and education, job placement, and any other services that may be innovated as counselors learn what would work with particular clients’ career goals and specific disabilities.
Vocational Rehabilitation can be contacted by going into their offices at 925 S. Main St. or by calling (435) 586-9995.
Jepson said what she loves about the service they provide is that they see so much success because they have the flexibility to tailor services to the specific needs and goals of each client so each can achieve on-going independence.
“It’s so gratifying to know that the people who finally walk out of our doors have learned skills to advocate for themselves and be successful on their own,” she said. “If people come back, it’s to tell us how well they are doing.”
One unique Voc Rehab success story that proves the efficacy of the flexibility and innovation of the service is the local business Mountain Meadows Bath and Body Essentials, started by former Voc Rehab client Teresa Jackowich.
Like many VR clients, Jakowich had a career for many years in which she could no longer work because of a disability, and she went to VR in order to obtain assistance in creating a new way to support herself.
Because of her worsening autoimmune disease and severe anxiety disorder, she could no longer work as an LPN, and a traditional work week and schedule would not be possible.
In 2010 Teresa sought help from Vocational Rehabilitation in starting a successful home-based business. Vocational Rehabilitation referred her to the Southern Utah University Small Business Development Center where she constructed a business plan and the center helped her determine if the business would be viable.
Upon the Business Center approving the plan and verifying the potential success of the business, VR helped Teresa purchase supplies and equipment to become an entrepreneur and provide an income compatible with her limitations.
Teresa has established a popular line of products that can be purchased on Etsy.com and delivered locally for free, or by calling her at (435) 275-5193.
Her business fulfills her goal of supplying customers with the highest quality lotions, lip care, body scrubs and soaps free of all chemicals, using essential oils and plant-based products for a price everyone can afford, she said.
Teresa is now seeking to expand her business as her repeat costumers are growing. She said her lotions, lip care line and scrubs are increasingly popular as are her lotions that are successful in treating conditions like chronic dry skin and eczema without the chemicals and petroleum that eventually contribute to illness.
The services provided by Vocational Rehabilitation vary widely and are dependant upon the needs of its clients such as Teresa.
Vocational Rehabilitation offers assistance to those with varying disabilities including mental and physical ailments including Down Syndrome and like characteristics, physical disabilities, debilitating diseases or medical conditions, mental and emotional illness including anxiety disorder, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Learning disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, reading disorders such as dyslexia and learning disabilities in math also qualify an individual for VR services.
Clients must meet a criteria determined by tests offered by professionals in the community to benefit from VR services, but Mindy said they are able to help most people who seek a path to independence.
“There are so many skills, like a quadriplegic being able to open a door and leave her house – you need to do your job, that you don’t even think about until you have a need for them,” Mindy said. “And sometimes people lack those skills or lose skills they have always had due to illness or accident, and that is where we can help someone start over and still have a great career and enjoy independence.”
Mindy added that her office has helped many nurses become registered nurses with the aid of Vocational Rehabilitation and the number of success stories in her office alone are so plentiful it is difficult to single a few out.
Vocational Rehabilitation also works with employers to pay for job training and job coaching to motivate businesses to hire one more person or hire a person with special needs such as Down Syndrome who may need longer on-the-job-training before he or she can work alone.