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Iowa DHS working to improve employment opportunities for people with mental health conditions

Iowa DHS Web

DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) -- Iowa is one of 7 states chosen by The U.S. Department of Labor to participate in its Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative to increase competitive employment for individuals with mental health conditions.

The effort to develop a strategic plan, led by the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS), kicked off in March with the plan being implemented from May 2021 - August 2022.

The initiative provides states with tailored and targeted technical assistance, including expertise to help each state in creating and implementing strategic plans that encompass multiple systems including mental/behavioral health, Medicaid, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce and education. States develop and implement their plans in consultation with key mental health advocacy organizations.

In Iowa, the initiative involves a leadership team of multiple state agency representatives, those with lived experience and family members, as well as representatives of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Iowa, and employment service providers. They're working to build out and sustain the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment approved by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Iowa DHS says IPS is the most successful, evidenced-based model of supported employment. IPS encourages a ‘recovery while working’ philosophy. Using IPS, people attain competitive integrated employment while being assisted with ongoing support services.

ASPIRE will also provide a forum for knowledge-sharing between states, federal agencies, mental health service providers and other stakeholders about policies and practices to implement IPS to increase competitive integrated employment for people with mental health conditions.

Iowa has three IPS teams operating since 2018 and added a fourth team last year. Through ASPIRE, Iowa will add three more IPS teams by 2022 with hopes of expanding further.

"Iowans value work and recognize the positive impact of supporting individual achievement," Marissa Eyanson, Division Administrator of Community Mental Health and Disability Services said. "DHS is excited to continue our work with all of our partners across the state and the nation as we continue to build on Iowa's commitment to supporting employment as a first choice option for everyone."

To learn more about MHDS’s efforts to increase employment for people with disabilities, visit the DHS website.

Trevor Oates

Executive Producer

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