General Manager of Mrs E's


As a Job Coach, or Employment Consultant, Mary finds employment for persons with developmental disabilities -- some with severe physical and mental limitations -- and then trains the newly-hired employees until they master the job.


General Manager of Mrs E's


Tony Schwager, who teaches shop at Baldwin High School, said the long term goal of Anthony’s Beehive is financial independence for his son.

General Manager of Mrs E's

Ray and Janet Steffy are big believers in working with the community that surrounds their son to find what he can do and what he wants to do.

General Manager of Mrs E's

“Circle of Friends” has been key to Justin White’s tremendous growth over the last couple of years.


General Manager of Mrs E's


Now 21, David works full-time as a medication aide in a senior center, has his own apartment, car, and computer, and plans to gain additional education to continue a career in health care.

 is funded by the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities (KCDD). Design by Lawson Phillips Associates. Stories by Tim Hoyt. Photography by Lawson Phillips. Publication design by Arthur McCash and Lawson Phillips.

Kathering at WorkThe Director of Nursing said it was among the worst resumes she had ever seen.

And no wonder.

Katherine Carpenter, 52, had been through a lot before presenting Brighton Place West Nursing Director Jil Godfrey what Ms. Godfrey called “a resume that made her almost unhireable.”

Although she had updated her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license, Ms. Carpenter has worked very little in the last 10 years. And that, Ms. Godfrey said, was the main problem with her resume. But here’s Katherine Carpenter’s reasons for that major employment gap: mental illness with diagnoses of Bi-Polar Disease and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, life under a bridge in cardboard boxes for two years, alcohol and drug addiction, a suicide attempt, and trouble with the law.

It wasn’t until a court-ordered trip to Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka that Ms. Carpenter’s life made a major change for the better. The culmination of the improvement: a job at Brighton Place, brought on by help provided by Ms. Carpenter’s Employment Support Specialists at Valeo.

“I believe in giving people a second chance,” Nursing Director Godfrey said. “I’m known for hiring the unhireable. They need somebody to pick them up, help kick the dust off.”



And how is Ms. Carpenter doing?

“She’s wonderful,” said Ms. Godfrey. “She gets along with both staff and residents. She catches on really quickly.”

The job for Ms. Carpenter at Brighton Place West resulted in a celebration at a team meeting at Valeo Behavioral Health Care among employment support specialists and case managers. Ms. Carpenter had spent many an hour over almost six years at Valeo working with therapists, case managers, and employment specialists like Kassandra Griffin. She also worked with fellow clients in meetings to fight against addictions.

Ms. Carpenter said before she began working with Valeo staff, she had no idea that she had a mental illness.

“I didn’t know I was bi-polar,” she said. “I didn’t know how to deal with the symptoms, the anxiety and depression. In the past, I addressed the symptoms with alcohol.”

Working in Valeo’s Services for Employment Success, Ms. Griffin worked with Ms. Carpenter for a year before she landed the job at the nursing home. Employment Specialists in mental health centers get referrals from case managers, then spent time working with their client to find out the type of work the client is interested in and can do. All clients of employment specialists at Valeo and other mental health centers in Kansas have been diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness.

Ms. Griffin helped Ms. Carpenter set up a nursing assistant refresher course through Kansas Rehabilitation Services, helped her prepare her resume, and went with Ms. Carpenter to her interview.

“Part of my job is to try to open the door a little bit wider,” said Ms. Griffin.

In working with Ms. Carpenter to find employment, Ms. Griffin said determining the type of work Ms. Carpenter wanted to do was easy.

“She’s a very caring person,” Ms. Griffin said. “You can tell she’s a good caregiver.”

Ms. Griffin also checks back in with Ms. Carpenter on the job site regularly to give added support, and works with Ms. Godfrey in setting employment hours for Ms. Carpenter. Because of her disabilities, Ms. Carpenter receives Social Security Administration benefits and access to medical insurance. Because of Social Security Administration rules, in order to keep her health insurance that pays for needed mental health drugs, Ms. Carpenter cannot earn more than $1,000 a month or risk losing benefits, although Ms. Griffin said they are working to access programs called Ticket to Work and Working Healthy that would allow Ms. Carpenter to work more hours and keep important medical benefits.

Ms. Griffin said many of her clients are very anxious about losing cash and medical benefits because of the high cost of mental health drugs.

Ms. Carpenter said she very much appreciates the help Ms. Griffin has provided.

“I love her,” Ms. Carpenter said.  “She gets on me when I’m not doing the right thing.”

People working with employment specialists at mental health centers sometimes disclose to potential employers that they are working with the mental health center, and others do not. Employment specialists say it is completely up to the client whether or not to disclose their mental illness. If the client does not chose to disclose, the employment specialist works for the client in the background. Ms. Carpenter did disclose.

Nursing Director Godfrey said she thinks it is important that any of her employees get the help or accommodation they need to do their job.

Because Brighton Place is a 50-bed nursing home for people with mental illness, Nursing Director Godfrey said Ms. Carpenter is especially helpful with residents. She has a knack for communicating with the residents, she said.

“I’m around people I do understand,” said Ms. Carpenter. “I’m proud of what I do.”