Individual Placement and Support


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About Individual Placement and Support

Supported employment is a program that helps people with mental illness and/or substance use disorders find and keep jobs, while at the same time providing employers with access to motivated employees. From Europe to Australia and across many states in the United States, mental health centers and local businesses are partnering to provide real, meaningful jobs to people with mental illness. The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment is one of many types of vocational programs for people with behavioral health issues, and research shows it is very successful. 


The eight principles of IPS

Established by the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center (now the IPS Employment Center, Rockville Institute at Westsat), IPS is based on eight key principles:

  1. Anyone who wants to work can participate in the program, and job seekers are not excluded based on diagnosis, symptoms or history.
  2. Employment specialists help job seekers look for competitive employment: jobs in the community paying at least minimum wage and not specified for people with disabilities.
  3. Services are based on the job seeker’s preferences and choices.
  4. Services are integrated with mental health treatment teams to provide job seekers with collaborative, professional support.
  5. Employment specialists help job seekers apply for employment quickly, rather than providing lengthy assessments or counseling.
  6. Employment specialists develop an employer network and relationships based on job seekers’ interests.
  7. Professional counselors provide job seekers with information about how employment may affect their government benefits.
  8. Job seekers get personalized support as long as they want it after obtaining employment.

Click here for more detailed information on The IPS Employment Center and IPS supported employment tools.

Colorado IPS Providers

Several of Colorado’s mental health centers are practicing IPS supported employment and experiencing great success, including:

Another key feature of the supported employment program is the collaboration with the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

IPS resources for job seekers

Help is available

Work is a proven part of recovery for people with mental illness, and Colorado’s supported employment program provides help maneuvering the job market for those who may need it. Based on consumer preferences and strengths, the program provides supports such as:

  • Personal assistance with identifying strengths and work interests; writing a resume; preparing for interviews; filling out online applications, and coaching on the job.
  • Guidance from professional counselors regarding how work could affect important benefits, such as Social Security or Medicaid.
  • Someone to advocate during the job search process. 

Participant testimonials

  • Denver’s Road to Work — Watch this inspirational feature from Colorado’s 9News about helping Denver homeless people get back to work. 
  • Personal Accounts from Job Seekers — Click here to hear personal accounts from Griff McClure, former consumer and Employment Counselor from Denver.
IPS resources for employers

Supported employment provides unique benefits to both employers and people looking for work. Employers involved with the program are viewed as partners who share a goal of giving back to their communities.  

People Helping People Supported employment provides unique benefits to both employers and people looking for work. Employers involved with the program are viewed as partners who share a goal of giving back to their communities.  At no cost, participating employers have the opportunity to: Gain immediate access to prescreened job applicants, with skills and qualifications that are matched to needs. Get additional support and on-the-job coaching for employees who may need it.


Work Opportunity Tax Credit — The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal income tax credit that encourages employers to hire job seekers most in need of employment and on-the-job experience.  Targeted at specific groups, such as SSI recipients, disconnected youth and ex-felons, the WOTC is designed to help move people from welfare into gainful employment and economic self-sufficiency.

Watch the following video clips to help answer some of the most common employer questions: 

Why should I hire someone with mental illness? Types of mental illness in the workplace Accommodations, costs and other employer issues

  • Qualify for tax savings of up to 40 percent through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
Why the IPS model of support is a recommended approach

There are many reasons why the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment is the recommended approach to helping individuals with behavioral health disorders find and keep work. 

IPS is a free treatment for people with Severe Mental Illness (SMI) and/or Substance Use Disorders (SUD). The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (Medicaid), the Office of Behavioral Health, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation work together to help fund this preferred program. It’s an evidence-based practice.

IPS is the most effective program to help individuals with SMI obtain and maintain competitive employment, and it is based on more extensive and better quality research (over two dozen randomized control trials showing statistically significant results) than any other employment program for that population. It also consistently demonstrates the best outcomes from both personal and program perspectives (www.ipsworks.org).

Benefits for invididuals with SMI

The IPS model is transformational for individuals with SMI, using the best method to integrate individuals with disabilities into their communities and society at large and to combat stigma. It is effective with a wide variety of problems, including SMI, SMI/SUD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, First Episode Psychosis, Homelessness, and Criminal Justice involvement (www.ipsworks.org). There is no evidence of negative effects.Numerous studies have shown that individuals in IPS programs do not experience higher levels of distress or more severe symptoms, nor do they require more intensive psychiatric treatment (www.ipsworks.org).

Most individuals with SMI want to work (over 65 percent). They see work as essential to their recovery, as a basic human need, and as a way out of poverty. However, the unemployment rate for individuals with SMI is around 75 percent, and only about 2 percent of individuals with SMI receive evidence-based employment services.

Employment rates for established IPS programs operating at good or exemplary fidelity is around 50 percent (www.ipsworks.org). Participants in IPS are nearly twice as likely to keep their jobs as compared to other employment services, and they are far less likely to be hospitalized (Hoffman, Jackel, Gluaser, Mueser, & Kupper, 2014). Work success can also help increase self-esteem, reduce psychiatric and substance use symptoms, and increase life-satisfaction (Luciano, Bond, & Drake, 2014). In fact, the medical community recommends evidence-based supported employment models over traditional vocational services (Peer literature review by Bustillo, Wil, Marder, & Hermann 2017).

Benefits for Employers

IPS is used in 243 agencies and 306 teams throughout the United States alone and even more in four additional countries (www.ipsworks.org). When you implement IPS, you join an international learning community and have access to free training and technical assistance to help implement and sustain your program. The Return on Investment is over three times higher for IPS compared to traditional vocational services (Hoffmann et al., 2014). IPS is more cost effective than traditional vocational services and helps reduce the cost of mental health services (Bond & Drake, 2014). In addition, IPS follows client rights. The Olmstead Act (1999) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) states: Individuals with disabilities must have access to community based services which support community integration. This is regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).

Benefits for Communities

IPS helps our economy. The program helps balance entitlements with individual incomes, it supports local businesses, and it contributes to the general economy of a community. Most IPS clients work part-time, maintain their benefits, and maximize their income.


Contact us

Danielle Gillispie, Recovery Services Coordinator
Behavioral Health Administration