Jeff Stephens agrees that he has large shoes to fill.
Stephens is the new Employment Services Supervisor at Tri-County Mental Health Services. His predecessor, Missy McGaw, set a high bar for him to follow. For several years, Tri-County’s employment services team has established several state and regional benchmarks for their ability to help those with mental illness find work and, often, new lives.
“It’s made it pretty easy to step in and help with the program,” noted Stephens, who was named to the post in early 2016. “Missy was very organized. She paved the way to continue with a great program.”
Tri-County’s employment services program has consistently ranked as one of the best in Missouri, with above-average results for helping those with a mental illness find and keep jobs. Although it’s great for this group to find work, the benefits are more than simply earning a paycheck.
“It’s really great to see people achieve employment goals, to improve their situation financially,” he explained. “But it’s often helpful to them personally. A lot of times, just getting out of the house and being more social is therapeutic.”
Finding those jobs can be challenging, however. The stigma surrounding mental health is sometimes an issue, and individuals with a mental illness may have a gap in their resume or other work-history issues. For some, interviews can be a hurdle. All of these are among the reasons the Tri-County employment team works with each individual while also networking with employers, human resources specialists.
“We’re always trying to develop contacts,” Stephens said. “We’ve found that people with a mental illness make great employees if they get a chance. Our job is to get the word out.”
Stephens is no stranger to the work or Tri-County. He’s been with the organization nearly five years and previously served with ReDiscover in Jackson County. He and his wife, Jennifer, reside in the Platte County area of Kansas City with their 20-month-old son. She is a psychologist with the Kansas City, Ks., School District.
Tri-County Mental Health Services, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit community mental health agency delivering behavioral health-care to individuals and families residing in Clay, Platte and Ray counties. Each year, Tri-County programs assist nearly 8,000 area residents while providing prevention services to over 40,000 individuals in concert with some 500 community volunteers. For further information, call (816) 468-0400 or visit www.tri-countymhs.org.