WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a new initiative designed to assist states in aligning policy, programs and funding across multiple state agencies to increase competitive integrated employment for people with mental health conditions.

Led by the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative seeks to align state policy and funding in support of evidence-based practices, such as the Individual Placement and Support model of supported employment. By doing so, ASPIRE aims to expand competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with mental health conditions. Competitive integrated employment is work in community settings where most employees have no disabilities and are paid directly at the greater of the minimum or prevailing wage. 

ODEP also announced today its selection of Westat, a Rockville, Maryland research firm, to assist the agency in this initiative.

“The Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment initiative should improve lives and livelihoods for so many Americans and their families,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy. “With the significant experience and expertise of the Westat team, we are confident that this initiative will improve competitive integrated employment outcomes, including individual placement and support for persons with mental health conditions.”

ODEP will choose up to six participating states through a competitive process in the coming months. To participate in ASPIRE, states chosen must demonstrate leadership commitment from the states’ mental health, vocational rehabilitation, workforce, education and Medicaid programs, and from critical mental health stakeholders in their state.

A technical working group of national experts will advise the project and help share ASPIRE analysis, products and tools with an array of national stakeholders

ODEP’s mission is to develop and influence policies and practices that increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For more information on ODEP, including its work on competitive integrated employment, see dol.gov/odep.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

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