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New Jobs Program In Ventura County Gives People With Mental Health Issues Chance To Relaunch Lives

Behind a large, vacant warehouse sized building off of Lewis Road near Camarillo, more than a dozen men and women are lining up rows of little succulent plants. They are in a new program called “Growing Works.” It’s a non-profit wholesale plant nursery helping people with mental health issues through vocational training, jobs, and horticultural therapy.

Lori Cash is one of the people in the “Growing Works” program, and is excited about what she is learning. She says this is helping her get her life back on track.

“Growing Works” is the result of a collaboration between Ventura County and the non-profit Turning Point Foundation, which helps people dealing with mental health issues. "Growing Works" is patterned after a similar project in San Luis Obispo County.

The new program is on nearly five acres of county land between Camarillo, and Cal State Channel Islands. Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks has been championing the project for years, working with the county to lease the site to Turning Point, and for the county to provide funding.

Turning Point Executive Director Jason Meeks says this program fits in with the non-profit’s mission of helping those with mental health issues. He says many people in recovery or who have recovered want to work, and have meaningful jobs.

Mark Shumaker is Turning Point’s Program Director. He says they serve about a thousand people in Ventura County a year, including about 700 in various programs. But, what they have in common is major challenges in their lives.

Michael Moore, one of the people in the “Growing Works” program, ays he’s excited about the potential for it to help him start a new life. He says he was homeless, and living on the streets. Now, he has stable housing and is in the new job training program.

One of the project's goals is to build a large demonstration garden behind its Lewis Road home, to show people the potential for the drought resistant plants they are growing, and selling. They are hoping to sell plants to commercial landscapers and government agencies.

They’re also seeking the community’s help with a donation wish list of things they need, like funding for solar power and water conservation systems, as well as basic items like shovels and brooms. The hope is to make the program largely self-sufficient, as people continue their recoveries while learning a potential new career.

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