Individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) have many strengths, talents and abilities that may be overlooked, including the desire to be competitively employed. OMHSAS supports the belief that every person with a serious mental illness is capable of working competitively in the community if the right job and work environment are available. The goal is to develop resources that help individuals find and keep jobs that capitalize on individual strengths and skills while accommodating needs with support services as necessary. As individuals with serious mental illness succeed in the workforce, stigma decreases and social awareness improves. As a result of obtaining competitive integrated employment, individuals can experience increased self-esteem and satisfaction in life (1,2) and the cost of behavioral health services can be reduced (3,4). When individuals with SMI are employed in competitive integrated jobs, it increases the tax base and saves money in public assistance.
OMHSAS endorses the following employment resources for individuals with SMI:
OMHSAS encourages county mental health administrators to increase the use of evidence-based supported employment services, which focus on community integration.
In 2017, OMHSAS increased collaboration with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation through the development of Memorandums of Understanding to support Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training and certification process including additional sub-specializations. Pennsylvania has trained and certified over 4000 CPSs, the most in the country. Over 50% are competitively employed in a variety of settings in the behavioral health field. The objective is to increase the employment rate of CPSs and continue to increase this paraprofessional work force. A training for CPSs planning to work with youth and young adults was created in 2017 and is being conducted throughout the state.
OMHSAS will be developing a State Plan Amendment to add Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (PRS) as a Medicaid reimbursable service in both Managed Care and Fee-for-Service. PRS is a rehabilitation service that focuses on a variety of life domains including employment. OMHSAS is also drafting regulations for expansion of PRS to accommodate the needs of youth and young adults. The expansion of PRS provides a resource for individuals with SMI to develop job skills at their own pace and have support throughout the process.
OMHSAS is expanding the Fairweather Lodge model which provides a residence and employment for individuals with SMI. The model encourages the lodge members to develop a business and each member is responsible for an aspect of the business.
(4) State of California, (1995). Taxpayer Return Study. California Department of Rehabilitation Mental Health Cooperative Programs.