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Model Program: Supported Employment for People with Serious Mental Illnesses


To secure employment quickly and efficiently for people with mental illnesses. Alarmingly, only about one-third of people with mental illnesses are employed,53 yet most wish to work.


An employment specialist on a mental health treatment team. The employment specialist collaborates with clinicians to make sure that employment is part of the treatment plan. Then the specialist conducts assessments and rapid job searches and provides ongoing support while the consumer is on the job.


In general, about 60% to 80% of those served by the supported employment model obtain at least one competitive job, according to findings from three randomized controlled trials in New Hampshire; Washington, DC; and Baltimore.55 Those trials find the supported employment model far superior to traditional programs that include prevocational training. The cost of the supported employment model is no greater than that for traditional programs, suggesting that supported employment is cost-effective.

Biggest challenge

To move away from traditional partial hospital programs, which are ineffective at achieving employment outcomes but are still reimbursable under Medicaid.

How other organizations can adopt

Restructure State and Federal programs to pay for evidence-based practices, such as Individual Placement and Support (IPS)55 that help consumers achieve employment goals rather than pay for ineffective, traditional day treatment programs that do not support employment.


30 States in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, and 6 European countries

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