MINNEAPOLIS - A local Twin Cities restaurant is doing its part to help people with serious mental illness.

Sea Salt, located near Minnehaha Falls, hires people who live with mental health issues. It is all thanks to a partnership with a local nonprofit organization, Vail Place.

Sea Salt’s manager, Bill Blood, said the goal is to reduce stigma associated with mental health illnesses by giving people a way to get integrated back into the workforce.

“Having the people from Vail Place here gives a lot of the (Sea Salt) workers an opportunity to work with people who have mental illness, normally they probably wouldn’t see these people or recognize there is a problem. By working with them they realize they are just like us,” Blood said Tuesday during the lunch rush hour. “They are like family. The guys who worked here have been great. They are part of our family. Some of them even come back after they have graduated from Vail Place, which is great.”

Vail Place helps people with serious mental illnesses get back on their feet by providing connections to essential services, support and resources. Employment is just one example. Other services include housing, wellness and social programs.

Chad Bolstrom, who works with Vail Place, said the program has more than 250 active members in Minneapolis. The nonprofit serves more than 800 members in different capacities. Seven of its members work at Sea Salt, including Jerry Eich.

Sixty-one year-old Eich, who is responsible for cleaning the pots and pans, demonstrates the focus of the program. Eich said working at Sea Salt helps him feel included and not excluded.

“I was just a cleaner at a laundromat but this gives me an opportunity to step out and interact with people. I love being around people,” he said. “Vail Place helped me out in so many different areas. This gives me a different environment versus being isolated and having thoughts go through the mind. It is just nice to be out in a different environment.”

To learn more about Vail Place, visit their website.