Since October 2016, the agency has been piloting an Individual Placement and Support (IPS) supported employment model for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, in partnership with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). The model is an evidence-based best practice in supported employment for people with severe mental illness — and its principles are also working for people we serve.
Referred to us by VR, Kara quickly found a job working in the kitchen and cafeteria at Hickman High School. “I love everything about my new job,” she says. “I have a good manager, Jackie. I clean tables and dishes. I help with the food sometimes. I help serve the students sometimes.”
Community Employment Specialist, Rachel Murphy, says helping Kara find work was a team effort. “Everything came together. Kara’s Support Coordinator let us know Columbia Public Schools was hiring — and the job opening was consistent with Kara’s career goal. She was hired less than a month after beginning her job search.”
Kara was supported in finding and landing the job, and is supported in keeping the job. “They told me about the job and I wanted it,” Kara says. “Kim [former Community Employment Specialist] helped me apply online.” Rachel accompanied her through her orientation at work. Community Skills Specialist Sarah Branch helped her shop for clothes and shoes needed for the job — Vocational Rehabilitation purchased them. “Sarah also helps with my check stubs and making sure I report to Social Security,” she says.
Kara’s support team includes her VR Counselor, Jayne Young; her Support Coordinator, Holly Estrem; her Community Employment Specialist, Rachel; her Community Skills Specialist, Sarah, and the IPS Supervisor, Renee Carter, who is also a benefits planner and will help Kara understand how working affects her public benefits.
Kara’s journey reflects the principles of IPS:
- anyone who wants to work, gets a shot
- job search starts immediately
- support is team-driven
- job is based on personal choice
- competitive work is the goal
- benefits planning is arranged or provided
- job supports are ongoing for as long as they are needed
We hope Kara’s experience is fulfilling, and leads to future opportunity as her aspirations evolve.