Supported Employment

“People with mental illness are employed at much lower rates than the general population”.1 While Alaska has slightly better outcomes than the nation, this is also true in Alaska.  Employment First is a national initiative that places competitive work in the community as a preferred outcome for all working age people regardless of the type or severity of disability.2 In May, 2014, Governor Parnell signed into law a piece of legislation making Alaska one of 25 Employment First States in the country.

“Shouldn’t we begin to see employment as an outcome—not a service stream?”3

There are several recognized evidenced based approaches to helping people achieve the outcome of employment.  Some supported employment approaches that are embraced by DBH are the individual placement and support model, customized employment and transitional employment.  Regardless of the approach, the desired outcome is employment.

One of the first steps in an effort to improve employment outcomes was the Trust’s Employment Policy Review by a team from the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  Following are some highlights from the document:
  • Leadership is key. Designated staff positions are recommended in each of the collaborating state agencies.  To that end, DBH has a Supported Employment Specialist position.
  • There are many advocates for employment, but there is not a clear expectation of employment outcomes.  Leaders must communicate that all people can work and that they will be assisted to do so.
  • Data for employment performance measures has not been available.  Some is collected, but is not consistent across state agencies.  A Data Management and Employment Service Definitions work group has been established.
  • Peer to peer and family outreach is an important component for nurturing grassroots leadership.  Community outreach forums with targeted consumer and family groups are recommended.
  • There is a need for strengthened collaboration with DBH, SDS and DVR to provide technical assistance for implementation of employment enhancement.  Enhanced collaboration is a goal of DBH and its partners in this employment effort.
The Alaska Mental Health Trust Employment Policy Review document can be found here.


Beth Wilson, Supported Employment Specialist
3601 C Street, Ste. 934
Anchorage AK 99503
Phone: 907-269-3740
Fax: 907-269-3786


The Alaska Mental Health Trust Beneficiary Employment & Engagement
1 Getting To Work Promoting Employment of People with Mental Illness, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, September, 2014.
2 APSE Emplyment First Statement, October 11, 2010.
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