Program staff work in concert with program participants to provide assistance to individuals with mental illness (and their family members) who are attempting to receive social welfare benefits. These benefits may include (but are not limited to) social security disability insurance (SSDI), supplemental security income (SSI), food stamps, vocational rehabilitation services, inpatient or outpatient treatment at public health facilities (not limited to psychiatric treatment), services provided by traditional day treatment facilities, and housing and habitation services.
Frequently, mental health consumers are not empowered to become strong self-advocates as they work to ensure their own adequate access to resources to which they are entitled. This may be due to the demoralizing aspects of illness, side effects of medication, and a sense of l0w self-esteem that can result from an increasing sense of societal marginalization. Program consumers most in need of information and assistance are often the least able to negotiate a system that is complex, fragmented, and always changing.
Prosumer staff at the St. Louis Empowerment Center are available to intervene with agencies to ensure receipt of services and may accompany program participants to appointments with services providers as the face interviews, appeals, and other processes. Over time, program participants who have themselves successfully negotiated various entitlement systems will be able to act as mentors and assist their peers.