Wellness and Work go Hand in Hand

Individuals with mental health challenges often struggle with poverty and unemployment. Although many people want to work, they might need some extra help to get there. The Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Vocational Program staff successfully help people find and maintain regular jobs in their communities. Individuals don’t need to have recent work experience.

“Overall in California, we do a terrible job of effectively helping people with mental health challenges find and keep employment,” says Rick DeGette, MFT, Alameda County BHCS Vocational Services Director.

This is why there is a 92 percent unemployment rate for people in the public mental health system. “I’m convinced that employment services are better offered as part of health care services,” DeGette says.

Vocational staff assist people with mental illness or substance use challenges identify what they already do well and identify their interests and goals. Employment specialists work with each person to make the best job match to meet that person’s goals.

According to DeGette, each person’s employment story speaks to their heart, determination, drive and spirit to rise above difficult conditions. Being employed is a way to claim your place as a worker in the community. These are competitive jobs—a job that people can apply for whether or not they have a disability.

“You don’t have to have recent work experience. The staff will work with you to make the best job match to meet your goals.” —Rick DeGette

How long it takes to help an individual reach their goals varies. Staff partner with each person on their employment journey. They offer hope when they are discouraged, assist in completing applications and interviews, and in keeping jobs once they get them. Services are tailored to meet the needs of each person.

Jesus Herrera, who is in his 50s, has been working at a retail job for almost three years. “My employment specialist is there for me 110 percent,” Herrera says. “Other programs were good but they were not geared to preparation for society. I am now able to adapt to the world as it is.”

For information, contact
Rick DeGette, MFt,
Vocational services Director
510-777-4242 or

Vocational program success stories:

Photo by Martin Pacheco.


“I feel productive and useful when I am working.”

When I work, I make friends and have structure for the day.

I am a contributing member of society by working.

Photo by Jackie Pogue.


“After my shift is done, I feel happy and proud of myself”

Working in childcare helps me have a focus, be active and make friends.

I am going to college to become a teacher.



From the Director's Desk

Building the Behavioral Health Workforce

Wellness and Work Go Hand in Hand

Peers: Transforming Hurt to Help

Employer Spotlight
Employment and Education Resources

Family Partners

Ashley King

Mental Health Information & Resources

CRISIS & URGENT CARE and Support Services

What is the Mental Health Services Act?
Employment Supports Wellness

2014 MHSA Articles
2015 Summer MHSA Articles
2015 Fall/Winter MHSA Articles