In March 2017, Swope Health started a new employment program for clients with the support of the State of Missouri’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service. In the first year, the program successfully placed 55 clients.
IPS Supported Employment
The program, called IPS Supported Employment, helps people with behavioral health conditions find competitive employment. The IPS in the name stands for “Individualized Placement Support,” meaning the program assists with finding a position that aligns specifically with the client’s needs and preferences.
Kelli Fisher, Swope Health Employment Services Supervisor, said the process starts with a referral from a case manager. If a client’s care plan includes an employment goal, the client is directed to the program.
“If a client wants to work, we work with them to find a job,” she said.
The team works under a rapid placement approach, typically getting a client in a position within 60 days – far faster than some job programs that can take months.
When a client is referred, a member of the employment services team meets with them to develop a vocational profile. The client identifies at least three areas of employment they are interested in – retail, construction, administrative functions, environmental services, food service, health care, etc.
The next step is a meeting with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, to get approval for joining the state’s program. Clients are required to provide two forms of Identification such as a Missouri I.D., birth certificate, social security card or a passport. With approvals in place, the Swope Health team works to make the client’s goals a reality.
“The best is when a client says, ‘This would be my dream job,’” said Ron Knisley, Employment Specialist with Swope Health. “We call that ‘job carving’ when they can identify the perfect fit. We love that. It gets us excited to make it happen. We like the thrill of the chase.”
Ron notes the team has successfully placed clients in dream jobs: one who wanted to be around animals now works in a veterinarian’s clinic. Another client who enjoyed the open road found a job driving a truck. Others have found dream jobs in administrative office work and as a hostess at a local restaurant.
The team helps the client prepare for the job search – using work history to build a resume, write a cover letter, and get ready for the first interviews.
The program can also provide some financial support, like funding for gas cards or bus passes, or clothing for the interview. If the client gets the job, the support can continue – buying a uniform or helping with necessary certifications or licensing fees.
The early success of the program is leading to expansion. The team now has four employment specialists, each working with up to 25 clients at a time.
Kelli said the four team members use their own network of contacts and relationships with area employers to find full-time or part-time positions for clients. That network now has a multitude of employer contacts, and many of them reach out to Swope Employment first when they have an open employment opportunity.
The client support doesn’t end with the job placement. The support may include attending orientation with the client and helping sign up for benefits, or following up with the employer and client after a week on the job. It might entail coaching or providing feedback to improve job performance, or help with financial planning. Ron noted the team provides ongoing support for up to one year after placement.
When it works, the good feelings spread to everyone: the employer, client and the team.
“It is absolutely priceless to see someone get their first paycheck ever,” Ron said. “We see their confidence go from zero to 50 all at once. What a difference a job makes.”