The study confirms and extends the significant benefits—more hours of competitive work, higher pay, and diminished likelihood of hospitalization—of supported employment for people with schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses that had been found at two and three years. Additionally, the study found that over time, the supports associated with the intervention could be removed without diminishing the benefits; recipients became less dependent on the program to retain employment.
In the study, 100 unemployed individuals with severe mental illness were randomly assigned to either the supported employment program or traditional vocational rehabilitation. The supported employment program, known as the Job Coach Project, was modeled after the individual placement and support model of supported employment. Once employed, participants receive on-the-job training and follow-along support to help them keep their jobs.
The researchers found that participants in supported employment were more likely to obtain competitive work than those in traditional vocational rehabilitation (65% vs. 33%), worked more hours and weeks, earned more wages, and had longer job tenures. Reliance on supported employment services for retaining competitive work decreased from the two-year to the five-year follow-up, and participants were also significantly less likely to be hospitalized, had fewer psychiatric hospital admissions, and spent fewer days in the hospital.
Robert Drake, M.D., Ph.D., of Dartmouth University, one of the founders of supported employment, said the findings are consistent with 21 other studies in the literature. “The new findings here are that employment supports can be reduced without eroding benefits, and cost savings are great when you follow people for five years rather than 18 months as in most U.S. trials,” he told Psychiatric News.
For more information on this topic, see the Psychiatric News article "Study Finds Evidence Supported Employment Works." Also see the report "Supported Employment: Assessing the Evidence" in Psychiatric Services.