“I’m working at CVS,” said Erik Nelson proudly. Erik loves his job and for two decades he has worked as an employee of CVS pharmacy in Ludlow, where he is responsible for replenishing and stocking inventory. 

According to Fred Destromp, Residential Program Director, Division of Residential and Support Services, Erik was born in 1968 and has lived in this area since he was very young. “When Erik was 10, he sustained a traumatic brain injury while climbing a tree,” said Destromp. “His story is difficult, but he is an inspiration. His commitment to his job at CVS is a great example. While he needs supervision and coaching on the job, he truly loves being integrated into a work environment. He wants to work and do a good job.”

Erik has been a steady and reliable worker at CVS for more than 20 years. He lives at an MHA group residence in Chicopee. A partnering agency provides a job coach who guides his work, but Erik does the work himself. MHA plays a key role by making sure Erik is ready to work. “We make sure he’s well-rested, had a good breakfast, and dressed in a clean work shirt,” Destromp explained. “We also help him with those soft skills he needs to interact with the people he encounters at his job. For folks in our care like Erik who want to work, we’re thrilled to help them take advantage of the opportunity.”

Erik’s record of service with CVS is longer than most of the people who work at the Ludlow store, and the company is pleased with his reliability and dedication. “We are so lucky to have had Erik on our CVS team for 20 years,” said Craig Miklasiewicz, CVS Pharmacy District Leader.  “At CVS Health, we understand the importance of helping individuals with disabilities access the security and prosperity that stable jobs can provide. We are committed to creating a more inclusive workforce, and look forward to helping more colleagues like Erik find a meaningful career with CVS Health.”

In addition to a traumatic brain injury, Erik has post-injury physical symptoms, such as limited use of one arm, but he is mobile and has a positive attitude and strong desire to work. His helping nature is evident to the people who care for him. “Erik is a good helper in the group home,” said Comfort Mireku, Direct Care Staff Member for MHA.  “He can dress himself, he helps to make the recipes he likes, and he cleans up. On days he goes to CVS he has to get up earlier, but he’s always ready to go. He loves his job.”

“Erik wants to be on time and doesn’t like to miss a day,” Destromp said. “It’s part of his routine in life and just a big part of who he is. He’s proud he has a job. His job coach from a partnering agency picks him up for work and they go together to CVS where Erik works stocking shelves. The coach is there with him to provide guidance and support, but Erik does the work.”

On days when Erik doesn’t work, he may do some vocational training, or take part in community engagement or recreational activities. “There can be a lot of moving parts involved in getting a person with disabilities to work,” Destromp explained. “MHA is a spoke in a wheel of partnering nonprofits that make sure the people we care for who want to work can work. MHA lays the foundation that others build on and we are thrilled whenever there’s a job opportunity for someone in our care. We get Erik ready to work, and let me tell you, he’s ready.”