Supported Employment for Adults with Psychiatric Disability: Results of an Innovative Demonstration Project

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Meeting the vocational needs of adults with mental illness is one of the most critical issues currently facing mental health planners and policymakers. An extensive technology has been developed for one such service: supported employment (Danley & Anthony, 1987). This paper reports on an innovative three-year research and demonstration project which was designed to evaluate a supported employment program on a university campus designed specifically for persons with psychiatric disability. Twenty participants were enrolled in the intervention; enrollment was staggered and occurred over a period of 12 months. The vocational status, job satisfaction, work integration, symptomatology, and social supports of participants were assessed during the project, and a two-year follow-up of employment status was conducted. Based upon the experience of project staff, conclusions were that while a university setting was an ideal one in which to provide supported employment services for persons with psychiatric disabilities, the university itself was not a particularly receptive or compatible employer. Several project participants obtained employment in university-vendored sites. The follow-up after two years showed that 10 of the subjects were employed an average of 17.5 hours per week with mean earnings of $156 per week. This represents a modest increase in percentage of subjects employed, and a substantial increase in average hours worked and average wages earned. Most important, participants in the study strongly valued the attractive and nonstigmatizing site of the program.

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