Indiana Selected To Pilot Federal Mental Health Employment Initiative

Apr 20, 2021

Indiana is among seven states selected to pilot a federal initiative to increase employment for those experiencing mental health conditions. The Department of Labor is calling it the “ASPIRE” initiative, short for Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment.


The goal is to help people with mental health conditions get and stay in jobs where they’re paid competitive wages in a traditional workplace setting. Indiana won’t receive federal funding, but will receive “technical assistance” to carry out a statewide plan.

The push will be led by the state’s Family and Social Services Administration and will marshal both public and private agencies across the state. FSSA said it will pursue a "individual placement and support" model for workers with mental health conditions and is updating a website with more information in coming weeks. 

Jennifer Sheehy, deputy assistant secretary at the Office of Disability Employment Policy, said many states applied, but reviewers were impressed that Indiana’s application viewed employment as a natural step in recovery.

“It sounded like a very holistic approach to not only dealing with the person, but also within the state’s structures,” she said.

She said the initiative is inclusive of all types of mental health conditions and could be another tool for post-pandemic job recovery.

“People are talking about mental health now,” she said. “Because of the pandemic, the prevalence of people with mental health conditions has risen so dramatically. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates roughly 80 percent of those receiving public mental health services in Indiana are unemployed. 

In a letter to DOL, the Department of Workforce Development said it’s also committed to working with FSSA’s Division Mental Health and Addiction on the initiative.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.