Wellness WORKs! is a center located on the Stockton Campus of California State University, Stanislaus at University Park that provides wellness classes and activities to San Joaquin County CalWORKs (welfare) participants. It is a partnership between CSU Stanislaus and San Joaquin County Mental Health Services, the agency that contracts with the University to specifically serve the welfare population. There are several thousand persons receiving welfare in San Joaquin County. Many have obstacles to entering the work world. Various approaches are being taken to provide them with supportive services and education to become economically self-sufficient. Since December 2000, Work Wellness: The Basics, a curriculum of topics and activities based on a holistic model of wellness, has been offered two to three weeks each month. As of the end of December 2010, over 5,000 had attended classes at Wellness WORKs!
Before a curriculum was designed, focus groups were conducted with:
- Prospective participants to determine worries and fears related to employment and their overall health;
- Case managers, to elicit their perceptions about client needs; and
- Non-English speaking Southeast Asian participants through the use of interpreters. (Special weeks have been held for Hispanics, Hmong, Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese.)
Themes from the focus groups, literature and research on wellness and work-related needs of low-income persons, and resources actually available in the community were primary determinants in creating a program. The short-term goals were to foster positive self-esteem, improve self-care, and enhance personal and family wellness. The long-term goals were to support entry into the work world, increase success as employed citizens, and optimize their functioning as individuals, family members and parents.