Studies have consistently found low rates of employment for people with mental health conditions. Though many people with mental health conditions want to work, they lack access to effective employment services.

The Purpose of the ASPIRE Initiative

To support and expand competitive integrated employment (CIE) for people with mental health conditions, ODEP launched the Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative. ASPIRE provides selected states tailored and targeted technical assistance to integrate state policy, program, and funding infrastructures to expand evidence-based employment services for people with a disability resulting from mental health conditions. Particular emphasis is placed on expanding best practices such as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of Supported Employment. Lessons from ASPIRE will help other states, federal agencies, and service providers adopt proven methods to increase gainful employment for this underserved population.

What is Individual Placement and Support (IPS)?

IPS is an evidence-based supported employment model for people with serious mental health conditions. IPS supported employment helps people living with behavioral health conditions work at regular jobs of their choosing. Mainstream education and technical training are included as ways to advance career paths. To learn more, visit:

Participating ASPIRE States



State Selection Factors

The states of Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Virginia — participants in the ASPIRE initiative's first round — will return for the second round, with Louisiana, Montana, and New York chosen to receive first-time assistance. ODEP selected these seven states because of their state agencies' commitment to advancing CIE for persons with mental health conditions. Though selected states will not receive direct funding from the ASPIRE initiative, ASPIRE states will receive between 100 and 300 subject matter expert (SME) hours of support.

Consultation, Technical Assistance, and Support to ASPIRE States

ODEP has contracted with Westat, a private research firm, to implement the ASPIRE initiative. Westat works with its SMEs to provide support and ongoing policy consultation to state agencies, community mental health sites, and local providers in each of the selected ASPIRE states.

Technical Assistance Resources

  • Funding Crosswalks: Coordinating and Leveraging Resources to Increase CIE — This report describes how to create and use a funding crosswalk to leverage resources effectively to increase CIE for people with disabilities, including mental health conditions, using IPS as an example.
  • Extending Individual Placement and Support to Underserved Populations — This issue brief explores how to expand evidence-based employment services for people with mental health conditions in underserved communities and calls for improved access to these practices. 
  • Individual Placement and Support for People with Co-occurring Substance Use Disorder — This issue brief examines challenges and effective strategies for helping jobseekers with mental health conditions and co-occurring substance use disorders.
  • Cost-Effectiveness of Individual Placement and Support — This issue brief explores whether the benefits of IPS are worth its costs. The brief provides a nontechnical description of several types of economic analyses, statistics on the direct costs of IPS services, a summary of published economic analyses of IPS, and a discussion of key areas of IPS impact on costs.
  • Employment and Education Services for Young Adults with Mental Health Conditions — This issue brief summarizes findings from a systematic review of seven randomized controlled trials showing substantially better employment outcomes for young adults with mental health conditions receiving IPS compared to those receiving standard employment services and suggests several specific strategies for IPS teams working with this population.
  • Recovery-Ready Workplace Resource Hub — Developed in collaboration with various federal agencies, this resource hub provides employers, individuals, and service providers with information and tools to foster an environment that supports recovery within the workplace.
  • Mental Health within Native Communities: A Story of Resilience, Recovery, and Employment — In partnership with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Native Americans and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities and the Department of Education, this webinar focuses on employment opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Native individuals with mental health conditions. Hear the perspective from Native people who have navigated mental health conditions and/or substance use disorder while seeking employment.
  • Funding for Competitive Integrated Employment Support Services for People with Mental Health Conditions — The webinar provides an overview on the development of the ASPIRE initiative and how CIE programs to support people with mental health conditions are developed and funded in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Florida.
  • Measuring Race and Ethnicity in IPS Programs — Research on IPS for historically underserved groups, including people of color and people of Hispanic heritage, is of particular interest to federal, state, and local leaders responsible for planning and implementing evidence-based services. This brief reviews research on access and effectiveness of IPS for historically underserved groups and suggests a standardized template for states to track race and ethnicity in IPS programs.
  • State-level Barriers and Facilitators to Individual Placement Support (IPS) Implementation — This issue brief uses findings from a 2019 national survey of state mental health and vocational rehabilitation (VR) leaders to help state leaders identify common barriers and facilitators to implementing IPS supported employment and strategies to overcome the barriers, leading to successful implementation, maintenance, and growth of IPS programs.

Technical Working Group

ODEP has convened a Technical Working Group (TWG) to provide ongoing information and expertise, and updates on respective and prospective agency-led initiatives and policies that support ASPIRE goals. The ASPIRE TWG is composed of representatives from national mental health stakeholder organizations, experts in the field, and key federal partners. Federal partner agencies include:

  • Department of Education – Rehabilitation Services Administration
  • Department of Health and Human Services - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Administration for Community Living, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs - Veterans Health Administration
  • Social Security Administration

National mental health organization partners include:

  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Council on State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Mental Health America
  • National Governors Association
  • National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors

ASPIRE Learning Community

Strong learning communities share results and metrics to determine what works best. They are also a highly targeted and effective way to expand effective evidence-based practices to a larger audience. The ASPIRE learning community involves collaboration between many partners, including ODEP, Westat, the TWG, states, providers, and other key stakeholders, with the goal of expanding evidence-based employment services like IPS, and increasing CIE for people with mental health conditions. Recordings of learning community meetings are available for states and local policymakers.