An OPEN MINDS Market Intelligence Report

Supported employment provides services to individuals with disabilities to gain and retain employment in a competitive integrated work environment. An integrated work environment refers to an environment with both non-disabled and disabled employees. Competitive work means an individual is paid at least minimum wage and compensated for their work at the same or comparable rate to other workers.

Supported employment differs from sheltered workshops and pre-vocational training in its goals and philosophies. Supported employment attempts to place individuals in a job as quickly as possible instead of focusing on prevocational training and assessment. The idea is to find a job that naturally fits the individual rather than changing the individual to fit the job. Services that may be provided through supported employment include job placement, regular observation or supervision of the individual, social skills training, and skilled job
workers to accompany an individual to intensive job skill training.

Supported employment can be provided to individuals with any type of disability including developmental/intellectual disabilities, autism, physical disabilities, and serious mental illness. Services that an individual might receive under supported employment include job placement, social skills training, special on the job training, and guidance and counseling.

There are two funding streams for supported employment – the Department of Education’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program and state Medicaid programs. Under the Department of Education’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, grants are given to states to provide supported employment services to individuals with the most significant disabilities. Each state can establish their own disability criteria and set an order for prioritizing who receives services. Under the Medicaid program, supported employment is an optional service, meaning states can choose to provide the service but are not required to do so by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

This report provides a thorough explanation of supported employment, responsible parties for delivering supported employment services, how the U.S. Department of Education provides supported employment, and how Medicaid provides supported employment services.

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