As a part of their contracts with DSHS, the state’s Local Mental Health Authorities (LMHAs) provide Supported Employment assistance among their array of mental health case management and rehabilitative services. The Supported Employment Model is an evidence-based practice utilizing the Dartmouth IPS (Individual Placement and Supports). In an effort to implement the most current evidence-based practices, DSHS has designed four learning communities that are actively engaged in assisting consumers to engage in competitive employment. Through an on-going collaboration with the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and other providers, LMHAs assess job readiness and aid individuals in developing additional skills or enhancing already present skill sets to increase job marketability. The following seven principles form the underpinnings of the Supported Employment Model:
- Zero Exclusion - All clients who want to participate in Supported Employment are eligible.
- Integration of Vocational and Mental Health Treatment Services - Frequent communication between team members is key.
- Competitive Employment - supported Employment emphasizes helping clients obtain community-based jobs at competitive wages.
- Benefits Counseling - People who receive benefits need personalized benefit planning, or incentive counseling, when they are considering employment.
- Rapid Job Search - The process of looking for work begins soon after a client starts meeting with an employment specialist.
- Follow-along Supports - Individualized assistance to working clients is available as long as needed and desired.
- Preferences - Client preferences strongly influence the type of job that is sought, the nature of support provided by the employment specialist, and decisions about disclosing one's disability to the employer.
These four learning communities have also assisted with the formation of innovative partnerships with other agencies involved in helping people obtain and maintain employment to improve the system as a whole. This experience has allowed interaction with expert faculty to assist with potential systems changes and the management of those changes as systems progress to a recovery-based paradigm. Knowledge gained from this learning community will be disseminated to assist other mental health centers to implement supported employment programs.
Reese Carroll, Program Specialist staff, MHSA/DSHS, Adult Mental Health Programs