In its second year, the Easterseals Colorado Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment pilot project helps people with I/DD find opportunities for employment.
The key to helping people living with I/DD find lasting employment opportunities is to provide the fully integrated supports—such has housing, transportation, behavioral rehabilitation, mental health, and benefits counseling—while closely matching what employers are looking for with the skills, abilities and aspirations of those job seekers.
That’s the successful formula that Easterseals Colorado (ESC), in its second year as a Denver mill levy-funded initiative through Rocky Mountain Human Services, uses in its work.
“People are getting employed. More importantly they are staying employed,” said Pablo Sandoval, Senior Director of Employment Services at Easterseals Colorado.
The IPS Supported Employment pilot project uses a person-centered approach to empower job seekers to search for jobs based on their interests. Staff prioritizes job seeker preferences to create occupational goals that incorporate competitive employment opportunities.
Job seekers living with I/DD often face discrimination in their job searches. By focusing on competitive integrated employment, job seekers with I/DD can build skills to enter the job fields they want. The program offers job seekers coaching in pre-employment services, employee soft skills, employee hard skills, self-advocacy and disability disclosure.
“The key to finding successful matches is developing solid relationships with employers to find what they need,” according to Sandoval. Establishing the relationships with employers increases understanding of company needs to improve efficiency when matching job seekers to the positions they want.
Personalized employment support teams assist job seekers in pursing and maintaining occupational goals. The team includes the IPS employment specialist, job coach and whoever an individual chooses to include like a therapist or mentor.
After receiving the job, the program offers on-the-job coaching tailored to individual needs to help individuals in their day-to-day tasks.
“At one point, I was helping one of our clients hang clothes at Arc Thrift Store,” said Beth Elliott, IPS Coordinator at Easter Seals.
Beth is the IPS Coordinator but serves people as an employment specialist, job coach and more to help individuals secure a job. She knows some individuals need more support than others and is prepared to offer that.
“The goal is to support them until they become independent,” Beth said.
Eight Practice Principles
The IPS model follows eight practice principles to guide supported employment:
Focus on Competitive Employment
Eligibility Based on Client Choice
Integration of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Services
Attention to Worker Preferences
Personalized Benefits Counseling
Rapid Job Search
Systematic Job Development
Time-Unlimited and Individualized Support
Originally, the IPS model was developed to support individuals with severe persistent mental illness. The model follows the same practice principles, but was modified to increase competitive employment for job seekers living with I/DD.
Easterseals Colorado currently leads the state in IPS expansion and has expanded to three areas including: I/DD through its mill levy-funded initiative in Denver; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Jefferson County; and IDD/Mental Health Dual Diagnosis at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Colorado Springs.