A randomized clinical trial of supported employment for inner-city patients with severe mental disorders
Robert E. Drake
This study evaluated the effectiveness of two approaches to vocational services for persons with severe mental disorders: (1) individual placement and support (IPS), in which employment specialists within the mental health center help patients to obtain competitive jobs and provide ongoing support, and (2) enhanced vocational rehabilitation (EVR), in which stepwise vocational services are delivered by rehabilitation agencies. One hundred fifty-two unemployed, inner-city patients with severe mental disorders who expressed interest in competitive employment were randomly assigned to IPS or EVR and followed up for 18 months. Following diagnostic assessment, participants were assessed with standardized measures of work, income, self-esteem, quality of life, symptoms, and hospitalization at baseline and at 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-up evaluations. Employment was tracked monthly and job satisfaction every two months. During the 18-month study, participants in the IPS program were more likely to become competitively employed (60.8% vs 9.2%) and to work at least 20 hours per week in a competitive job (45.9% vs 5.3%), whereas EVR participants had a higher rate of participation in sheltered employment (71.1% vs 10.8%). Total earnings, job satisfaction, and nonvocational outcomes were similarly improved for both groups. The IPS model of supported employment is more effective than standard, stepwise EVR approaches for achieving competitive employment, even for inner-city patients with poor work histories and multiple problems.