Centerstone's $5M grant to train, employ area residents

Friday, June 4, 2010

Marshall and four neighboring counties got another injection of economic stimulus this week through a $5 million grant to Centerstone from the U.S. Department of Labor.

With the money, Centerstone is launching a new Career Resource Center to provide education, job training and support services to at least 600 Middle Tennesseans, and create new health sector jobs.

"Centerstone is the nation's largest not-for-profit provider of community-based behavioral healthcare, offering a full range of mental health services, substance abuse treatment and related educational services in Indiana and Tennessee," according to Centerstone's website.

"The $5 million ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) grant we approved will offer participants comprehensive employment-related healthcare education, training, job placement, retention, and supportive services in five Middle Tennessee counties that have been impacted by automotive-related restructuring," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in an announcement from Centerstone.

While Career Resource Centers will open July 1 in Columbia and Tullahoma, it was Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett who spoke for Marshall, Bedford, Maury, Coffee and Lawrence counties, expressing gratitude for the economic stimulus through job opportunities and better mental health services.

"I am all too aware of the economic difficulties my friends and neighbors are experiencing," Liggett said. "Right now, the unemployment rate in my community is 17.3 percent. Just a few short months ago Marshall County had the highest unemployment rate in the state ... nearly 20 percent...

"But..." he said, "I'd rather focus on the people those numbers represent... hardworking men and women who are hurting. Many of them held jobs for years, even decades, only to be laid off at no fault of their own. It represents the business owners who are hurting. Many of them had to make the difficult choices of letting employees go or even closing their shop doors for good. It represents families, mothers and fathers, who are hurting as they struggle to pay their bills and feed their children. It represents the difficult, personal reality of today's economy."

Centerstone has provided a wide range of mental health and addiction services to people of all ages for more than 50 years. Through more than 60 facilities and 170 partnership locations across Middle Tennessee, Centerstone serves more than 50,000 children, adolescents, adults and seniors each year. Its expansion and training program is creating employment opportunities.

Approximately 420 people will receive funding to complete and receive a certificate or degree, and a minimum of 290 will be placed into employment following their training. Multiple support services will be offered through Centerstone's Career Resource Centers, including childcare assistance and interview preparation training.

The Centers will officially launch operations and begin reviewing potential participants on Tuesday, June 15.

Having heard of the grant, the Rev. Steve Thomas, pastor of Belfast Presbyterian Church, said, "When churches and social service agencies encounter people with mental health issues, they can refer them to Centerstone. I've been in three counties where they provide services and have always found them to be accessible and willing to help."

Increased services through the stimulus grant increases job opportunities in a field where there's a growing need for workers, Thomas said.

"Mental health is one of the most undiagnosed and underserved health issues," the pastor said. "Part of that is the stigma is of going to see a mental health professional. Insurance coverage is not as strong for that as it is for major medical and so, except for Centerstone, it is frequently out of reach. Family therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists would be overwhelmed if not for Centerstone.

"Health care has been the No. 1 employment opportunity," Thomas said, pointing to an aging population and improved technology. "Having been a hospital administrator in a previous life, I know you are always looking for staff."

Liggett said Centerstone sought the grant "at the first of the year," and he recommended that people interested in training and work in mental health services should call the Career Center at Columbia State Community College.