WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor announced the selection of seven states to participate in the second round of an initiative that seeks to align state policy and funding to advance competitive integrated employment for individuals with mental health conditions.

Administered by the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment initiative provides states with tailored and targeted technical assistance to expand evidence-based practices, such as the Individual Placement and Support model of supported employment.

The states of Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Virginia – participants in the ASPIRE initiative’s first round – will return for the second round, with Louisiana, Montana and New York chosen to receive first-time assistance.

“Many people with mental health conditions want to work, but may lack access to the right supports,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn Williams. “The Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment initiative is designed to better align funding infrastructures, policies and programs to support proven employment models and ensure people with mental health conditions have equitable opportunities to succeed.”

The ASPIRE initiative offers subject-matter expertise to help participating state organizations to create – with input from key mental health advocacy organizations – strategic plans that employ mental/behavioral health, Medicaid, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce and education systems to deliver results.

The initiative also gives state and federal agencies, mental health service providers and other stakeholders a forum to explore policies and practices for implementing evidence-based models aimed at increasing competitive integrated employment for people with mental health conditions. 

ODEP has contracted with Westat, a research firm based in Rockville, Maryland, to provide technical assistance to the states that participate.

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