Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE)

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 assists seven states 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:

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 Subject Matter Experts (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. As indicated in the figure below, the initial ASPIRE states include Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Participating ASPIRE States



State Selection Factors

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 SME hours of support.

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 the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living, Office of the Assistance Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Other federal agency participants include the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs/Veterans Health Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services/Center for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Services, and the Department of Education/Rehabilitative Services Administration.

ASPIRE Learning Community

Strong learning communities share results and metrics to figure out what works best for whom and why. 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.