Federal initiative aims to increase employment for those with mental illness

Federal initiative aims to increase employment for those with mental illness

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced it is launching an initiative that will make it easier for states to align their policies, programs, and funding across multiple agencies to increase competitive integrated employment for people with mental illness.

Competitive integrated employment is defined as work in community settings where most employees have no disabilities and are paid at the minimum or prevailing wage.

The Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative aims to align state policy and funding to support evidence-based practices. These practices include the Individual Placement and Support model of supported employment.

The department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) will lead the initiative. ODEP will select up to six states through a competitive process. To qualify for ASPIRE, the states will need to demonstrate a commitment to mental health as assessed by that state’s education and Medicaid programs, vocational rehabilitation, workforce, and mental health stakeholders.

A technical working group of national experts will advise ODEP and share ASPIRE’s results with stakeholders nationwide.

ODEP selected research firm Westat to assist the agency in this initiative.

“With the significant experience and expertise of the Westat team, we are confident that this initiative will improve competitive integrated employment outcomes, including individual placement and support for persons with mental health conditions,” Jennifer Sheehy, ODEP deputy assistant secretary, said.