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Deborah Watkins – Supervisor Spotlight

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Deborah Watkins, Senior Vocational Specialist

Deborah Watkins, Cazenovia Recovery’s Senior Vocational Specialist since 2010, has an impressive background. She obtained her MA in Sociology & Human Services from the University of Wisconsin and partially completed doctoral studies in Sociology at Michigan State University. Debra said that she has “always worked in vocational services” serving different populations. Deborah also is employed evenings at Erie Community College as associate professor in Sociology.

As the Senior Vocational Specialist, Deborah oversees our Vocational program. At the moment, this department primarily serves Housing and Supportive Living, though Cazenovia Manor and Unity House receive periodic services.  The Vocational Department works with residents to help them identify potential employment goals. According to Deborah, “in order for a person to achieve a broad range of success in recovery, the vocational piece needs to start immediately.  I always ask them: ‘why wait?’ Just begin to think about what you want to do,” said Deborah.  “Clinical assistance, employment, and school are recovery.”

The Medicaid Redesign currently taking place for OASAS providers in New York State will bring compelling changes to our agency’s vocational services. Each program will be staffed with a designated vocational specialist to ensure that residents start thinking about what they’d like to do while they are in treatment and starting their recovery, just like Deborah prefers. She will soon be coordinating vocational specialists agency-wide. Her goal is to begin delivering vocational services to every resident upon entry. She’s planning a “consolidated effort to increase employment and education for our residents.”

One of Deborah’s favorite success stories involves going with a resident to a job fair. Deborah and the resident went their separate ways for a little while so the resident could do some exploring. When they met back up, he told her he had a job. Deborah was surprised and wanted to make sure, so they went back to the table and she asked, “did you hire him?” It was confirmed! “They hired him on the spot. That happens so rarely,” she noted.

Deborah enjoys being a part of a person’s recovery because she loves to see them inspired. “You have to show them individually that their dreams are still there,” she said. “You have to find a way to re-ignite that. That’s what I love about it.”

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