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News Release

U.S. Department of Labor Selects 12 States and the District of Columbia To Increase Employment of People with Mental Health Disabilities

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has selected 12 states and the District of Columbia to participate in its Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment (VOICE) initiative. The chosen participants will receive support to help them develop policy designed to increase employment opportunities for people with mental health disabilities.

Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin will receive intensive policy consulting, technical support and peer mentoring to increase competitive integrated employment for people with mental health disabilities. “Competitive integrated employment” is work in typical community settings, where most employees do not have disabilities and where an employer pays them directly at the greater of the minimum or prevailing wage.

States participating in the VOICE initiative may self-direct their hours of peer mentoring support, with many choosing to help employment services providers transform their service models from segregated settings – where people with disabilities work apart from others – to integrated settings. States may also form communities of practice for service providers or develop trainings on topics such as customized employment. Customized employment involves personalizing the relationship between an employee and their employer to meet both parties’ needs, as well as individual placement and support.   

“Employment helps increase feelings of self-worth for individuals with mental health disabilities and may speed their recoveries,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy. “The states participating in the VOICE initiative will help ensure that more individuals with mental health disabilities receive the quality support they need to recover and succeed in family sustaining jobs.”

Eligibility for the VOICE initiative included states that secured leadership from at least five state agencies responsible for Mental Health, Vocational Rehabilitation, Workforce, Education and Medicaid to assist in its implementation.

ODEP’s mission is to develop and influence policies and practices that increase the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. To fulfill this mission, the agency promotes the adoption and implementation of ODEP policy strategies and effective practices – meaning those that it has developed and/or validated – that will impact the employment of people with disabilities. ODEP’s approach is to drive systems and practice changes by disseminating agency policy strategies and effective practices, sharing information, and providing technical assistance to government agencies, service providers and non-governmental entities, as well as public and private employers. Through these activities, ODEP supports the ability of all Americans to find good jobs and develops evidence-based policies, practices and tools to foster a more inclusive workforce to increase quality employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Office of Disability Employment Policy
February 5, 2020
Release Number
Media Contact: Bennett Gamble
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