The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is continuing the state’s leadership in improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities through a new grant award.
Tennessee is one of 13 Capacity Building States identified for the Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE) program through the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy. The grant represents technical assistance which will flow to community behavioral health providers who use the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment model to connect people with severe mental illness to competitive integrated employment opportunities.
“When we talk about employment for people living with serious mental illness, we’re talking about a key that unlocks a future filled with hope,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “Employment builds natural supports, increases self-worth and confidence, and develops independence for a person.”
TDMHSAS has identified three areas of focus for the technical assistance opportunity:
1. Expansion of IPS Services Statewide - update the current interagency agreement between DMHSAS and VR to expand IPS through VR’s 4 to 1 match, Medicaid, TANF, and SNAP E & T funding.
2. Dual Diagnosis- provide collaborative opportunities, resources, and training to mental health/IDD providers statewide to effectively support people with dual diagnosis (IDD + mental illness) who want to pursue competitive integrated employment.
3. American Job Centers- provide resources and guidance to create a cross-training for AJC staff members to more appropriately support people with disabilities, including people with behavioral health diagnoses. The grant looks to build on the gains Tennessee has made as an Employment First State since 2012. In that year and every year since, Tennessee was awarded technical assistance through the predecessor of the VOICE Program. Previous opportunities focused on increasing competitive integrated employment and assist the state in moving away from segregated employment for people with disabilities.