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Recovery with Results, Not Rhetoric

Monograph 35


Originally published: 1/2005

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This report was undertaken by staff from the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston pursuant to a task order from the Office of Disability and Employment Policy (ODEP) within the U.S. Department of Labor. While the great majority of the funding was provided by ODEP, with an additional small amount allocated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the intent of this report was to provide guidance to both ODEP and the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Training Administration (ETA). This focus is meant to assist them in their respective roles in ensuring that the workforce development system, as envisioned under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), promotes universal access to customers with disabilities, including those with mental illness. The purpose as delineated in the statement of work was to:

Identify critical elements, systemic barriers, and develop policy recommendations that would assist One-Stop Career Centers and other employment and training agencies/organizations to provide effective, quality services to persons with psychiatric disabilities. These findings will be included in a written report. The report, delineating the elements of effective practices and programs/services, will be disseminated throughout the workforce investment system. The ultimate goal is to publish a TEGL and/or Training and Employment Notice (TEN), issued by ETA, in collaboration with ODEP, that identifies the critical elements that would enable One-Stop Career Centers to provide quality employment and training services to persons with psychiatric disabilities; and to encourage the workforce development system to use this knowledge to develop One-Stop Career Centers that are capable of proving effective employment and training services to this population.

The methodology included the following components:

  1. Seek examples from a wide network of possible respondents of "best practice" sites. These included eight sites visited, seven sites interviewed using a telephone protocol, and four customers interviewed.
  2. Develop an initial protocol for conducting on-site and telephone interviews, with the protocols refined on an ongoing basis.
  3. Collect information from different locations by using both on-site visits and telephone questioning.
  4. Compile a list of resources for One-Stop Career Centers.
  5. Prepare a final report that identifies the critical elements that enabled the One-Stop Career Centers and other employment and training programs interviewed to provide effective employment services to persons with psychiatric disabilities.

The report is organized into the following areas:

Summary of Findings and Recommendations

Commonly Identified Barriers

Promising Effective Practices Issues from Identified Sites

Broad-based, overriding issues:

Specific effective practices:

Administrative-level practices

Service-level practices


General recommendations from a variety of disciplines

Specific recommendations for DOL in furthering effective practices in workforce development initiatives for customers with mental illness


DOL should reinforce with WIA grantees/contractors, other funding recipients, andmental health systems themselves the need for integration and inclusion to the fullest extent possible of customers and potential customers with psychiatric disabilities in workforce services, especially at the core level. This report highlights many specialized strategies and interventions that make workforce services more amenable to the needs of people with mental illness. Nonetheless, the societal expectation for our citizens with and without disabilities still remains universal access.

People experiencing the challenges posed by psychiatric disability have been victimized as much if not more by lowered expectations of many systems that purport to serve their needs, even mental health specialty organizations, than by having these set too high. If the workforce/WIA/One-Stop system is to meet its abundant promise of seamless service delivery and universal access, key services must be programmatically as well as physically accessible. Due to the confluence of new psychiatric rehabilitation technology, mental health treatments, evidence-based practice in employment services for people with psychiatric disabilities, and the flexibility of a creative, newly reinvigorated workforce system, the potential exists for both the mental health and workforce systems to participate in breaking new ground in helping people with serious mental illness achieve a more fulfilling and complete life and reaping the benefits of full U.S. citizenship.

As Emily DeRocco, Assistant Secretary of Labor, ETA, said in her remarks to the Subcommittee on Social Security of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee on September 30, 2004, "One of five key components of this [New Freedom] initiative is 'Integrating Americans with Disabilities into the Workforce.' This includes expanding educational and employment opportunities and promoting full access to community life for peoplewith disabilities. ETA is committed to achieving this goal."

Download the full report (pdf file)

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities