Supported Employment

Supported Employment is an evidence-based program designed to help individuals with intellectual disabilities, mental health needs, and traumatic brain injury identify and acquire part-time or full time jobs of their choice in the community with rapid-search and placement services. This approach emphasizes that work is not the result of treatment or recovery, but integral to both.

Supported Employment uses the Integrated Employment and Treatment Approach which is combined with mental health services. Case managers work closely with other professionals to help clients achieve their employment goals. Team members discuss and find solutions for issues that may affect work and recovery such as: medication side effects, persistent symptoms, cognitive difficulties, and other rehabilitation needs (e.g., social skills, transportation, childcare).

Zero Exclusion

All people who want to work are eligible for employment services and can receive help even if they:

  • Have experienced job loss(es) in the past
  • Lose a job(s) while enrolled in the program
  • Are still experiencing symptoms of mental illness
  • Experience cognitive impairments (e.g. memory, problem-solving difficulties)
  • Are still using alcohol or other drugs (however the use of alcohol and other drugs may limit job choices because many employers test for drug use. If job applicants can pass a drug test, their choices of jobs typically increase).
  • Have a criminal history
  • Do not know how to fill out an application or talk to employers
  • Do not have previous job training or work experience
  • Are afraid they might not learn from the job fast enough
  • Are afraid they might not fit in with others

Source: "Core Principles-An Integrated Approach", Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services

Download Supported Employment Rack Card

How Does Supported Employment Benefit Job Seekers and Employers?

  • Vocational Preferences and Strengths: This program links clients with a Supported Employment Case Manager who assess vocational preferences and strengths. Evidence shows that people will have more success if they like their jobs and if the jobs utilize their strengths.
  • Rapid Job Search: The goal is to begin searching for a job rapidly as evidence shows less success if the search is delayed by extensive prevocational training and/or assessments.
  • Competitive/Permanent Jobs: Competitive and permanent jobs provide stability, predictability, routine, reduce stigma, enable clients to work side-by-side with other people in their local community, and promote self-determination and self-sufficiency. 
  • Systemic Job Development: Getting to know employers helps people find jobs that meet their strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences. Supported Employment Case Managers build relationships with employers over time through planned in-person contacts and are attuned to listening for many different opportunities at each worksite.
  • Earning Money: Earning wages improves the self-esteem of clients and helps them to reach recovery goals. Employers may also qualify for a tax reduction by hiring a person in the Supported Employment program.

Program Components

  • Job Development: Services are designed to assist clients with matching their interests with competitive jobs and to match employers with workers that are eager to be productive members of the workforce. Individual preferences guide all aspects of the employment process including job searches, decisions whether or not to disclose personal issues to employers, and level of ongoing support from services providers.
  • Ongoing Work-Based Vocational Assessment/On the Job Learning: Clients learn about their abilities, skills, talents, and preferences for work by trying different jobs. Supported Employment Case Managers promote this trial-and-error approach, as every experience is a form of active lifelong learning. The Supported Employment Case Manager is also a resource to the employer and is available to help the employer process and learn from each experience.
  • Follow-Along Support: A training partnership between the employee, employer, and Supported Employment Case Manager begins at the start of the employment process. This enables the employee to have access to someone who can help process how work is going and ways to improve. It also helps the employer have access to someone that knows the employee and can help solve the rare issues that might arise.
  • Benefits Planning: Supported Employment Case Managers help individuals know how their jobs (earned income) might impact benefits such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSDI), help clients understand benefits requirements and find benefits planners, assist with reporting of income to different benefits providers, and assist with identifying and documenting available work incentives.
  • Community-Based Services: Interactions directly in the community are preferred including meeting in the workplace or other public place to promote visibility and the opportunity for networking.

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