Finding a Path to Employment


What if the kind of resource my family member needs is not available in our area?

If a resource is lacking in an area or region, family groups such as NAMI can be a powerful force for change by advocating for that resource. When families join together with other families such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (a chapter in all states) and when they speak with one voice in a consistent manner, there are often tangible results. Another approach is for multiple groups such as families, professionals, people in recovery, service organizations etc. to join together in advocacy for a particular service need.

An example of a resource that is not in all areas or regions is the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of Supported Employment. While IPS is one of the most well documented evidence-based practices for helping people get employment, it is only available to about 2% of persons with mental health conditions who would benefit. (Becker)

The state agencies that would be most likely to offer vocational services would be the Department of Mental Health, the public Vocational Rehabilitation agency, the state agency that manages Medicaid and the workforce development agencies affiliated with the Department of Labor. At times there are other important “targets” such as the Board of Higher Education when it comes to free college tuition or America’s Job Centers when it comes to utilizing Department of Labor funds for vocational training. Persons in recovery can also be very effective in advocating for the kinds of resources they need. When peer organizations and family groups join together, there is double the power. The advocacy can be administrative (advocating for the state agency to provide the vocational services) or legislative (going to elected officials to advocate for vocational services).

On a more individual basis, if the resources are not readily available for a particular service, the family may have to find a similar but not exact service. For example, if there is not a program that provides easy entrance into a job, or pre- and post-employment supports, the person may have to get the job-finding and pre- employment services in one place, and receive job coaching or post-employment supports from another source. In other situations, the job seeker may have to travel to a different area, perhaps spending a longer time commuting to get the service that is needed. If you have trouble negotiating the service maze you may need to contact the Department of Mental Health in your area.

Another example is the family member might want to access a mental health Supported Employment Program (Individual Placement and Support) but there is not one in your community. The state vocational rehabilitation agency has supported employment that might be for persons with all disabilities, but it is not part of a clinical team. In this case the family member may get supported employment but not exactly in the context that s/he wants.

Department of Labor: Office of Disability Employment Policy

The Office of Disability Employment Policy offers a range of links to employment resources for people with any disability in 37 topical areas, within which additional links can be found. Topics include accommodations, Federal employment, green jobs, and youth in transition.


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