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Individual Placement and Support and Customized Employment Assist Job Seekers and Workers with Mental Health Conditions

May 12, 2021

A signpost with four arrows reading, from top to bottom, Help, Support, Advice, Guidance

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health conditions. This issue of the LEAD On! Newsletter highlights evidence-based employment strategies for the one in five people who will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. Some of these proven practices, including Individual Placement and Support (IPS) and Customized Employment (CE), are used throughout the country, as well as in other parts of the world, to help people secure and maintain employment. IPS and CE are especially helpful for people who have not found success with other employment support strategies.

In this issue, you will learn about some resources and strategies to support the employment goals of individuals with mental health conditions and other promising implementation practices and research from the field.

According to the IPS Employment Center, which is led by Westat, IPS is based on eight principles that include:

  1. Competitive Employment: IPS focuses on jobs anyone can apply for, pay at least minimum wage/same pay as coworkers with similar duties, and have no artificial time limits imposed by a social service agency.
  2. Systematic Job Development: Employment specialists systematically visit employers, who are selected based on the job seeker’s preferences, to learn about their business needs and hiring preferences.
  3. Rapid Job Search: IPS programs use a rapid job search approach to help job seekers obtain jobs rather than assessments, training, and counseling. The first face-to-face contact with the employer occurs within 30 days.
  4. Integrated Services: IPS programs are integrated with mental health treatment teams. IPS employment specialists meet at least weekly with a team of providers to discuss and coordinate their clients’ recovery-oriented services.
  5. Benefits Planning: Employment specialists help people obtain personalized, understandable, and accurate information about their Social Security, Medicaid, and other government entitlements.
  6. Zero Exclusion: People are not excluded on the basis of readiness, diagnoses, symptoms, substance use history, psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, level of disability, or legal system involvement.
  7. Time-Unlimited Supports: Job supports are individualized and continue for as long as each worker wants and needs the support. Employment specialists have face-to-face contact at least monthly.
  8. Worker Preferences: IPS program services are based on each job seeker’s preferences and choices rather than the employment specialist’s and supervisor’s judgments.

According to The Essential Elements of Customized Employment for Universal Application, the essential elements are organized into the following four components:

  1. Overview of Customized Employment: CE refers to competitive integrated employment for an individual with a significant disability that is based on an individualized determination of the strengths, needs, and interests of the individual. CE is designed to meet the specific abilities of the individual with a significant disability and the business needs of the employer, and is carried out through flexible strategies.
  2. Conducting Discovery and Creating Discovery Documents: The WIOA definition of customized employment requires that an individualized determination be made of the individual’s strengths, needs, and interests for the employment seeker with a significant disability and that such employment meets the needs of the individual as well as the business needs of the employer. Discovery is the first step in the CE process and results in a document that captures what an individual has to offer to an employer, their vocational interests, and their support needs.
  3. Planning for Customized Employment: An expected standard for any rehabilitation or employment service is the development of a plan that articulates the individual’s goals and charts the direction of CE services. In CE, a job is customized with the customization driven by the individual. A dedicated plan for customization is necessary to assure that job offerings reflect the wishes of the employment seeker and the needs of the business, rather than responding to job openings or existing relationships held by employment specialists.
  4. Employment Development Representation: The definition of CE within WIOA requires that an employment specialist or job developer (representative), chosen by the employment seeker, be available to assist with making the employer contacts and negotiations necessary to customize a job.