"COVID-19, Unemployment, and Behavioral Health Conditions: The Need for Supported Employment"

Article Authors: Robert E. Drake, Lloyd I. Sederer, Deborah R. Becker & Gary R. Bond

Write-up by IRIS team member: Eunsong Park

According to Nobel Laureates Banerjee and Duflo (2019), people should consider work an integral part of the recovery process rather than delaying it until all problems have been addressed. It highlights how important employment is to people in recovery.

This article introduced “Individual placement and support (IPS)” as an evidence-based approach with the potential to support employment for individuals with behavioral health disorders (mental health and substance use/SUD). The basic principles of IPS are the integration of targeted job development with behavioral health services, the goal of competitive employment (employment with pay similar to that of an individual without disability), zero exclusion and eligibility based on client choice, attention to client preferences, rapid job search, personalized benefits counseling, and individualized long-term support. Literature shows that individuals who received IPS had higher employment rates, longer employment, and higher earnings than individuals without IPS. ISP for individuals with SUD has not been well utilized and studied compared to IPS for individuals with mental health disorders (MHD).

The authors proposed adding virtually-delivered services to IPS since a study demonstrated the effectiveness of remote IPS for veterans (many of whom have co-occurring MHD and SUD) and because both IPS employment specialists and individuals with SUD have learned how to utilize IPS using this technology during COVID-19. The authors expected that implementing remote IPS would still meet the basic principles of IPS and enable IPS employment specialists to reach more clients without location barriers.

As the authors proposed, with the current infrastructure brought by COVID-19, this could be a great opportunity to implement remote IPS for individuals with SUD because the cost of implementing a service is always one of the biggest barriers to expanding the service. Additionally, more individuals with SUD may receive employment support even if their locations do not have easy access to supportive employment services.

Reference: Drake, R. E., Sederer, L. I., Becker, D. R., & Bond, G. R. (2021). COVID-19, Unemployment, and Behavioral Health Conditions: The Need for Supported Employment. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 48(3), 388–392. Scopus.