Embracing Change At Work

Annual conference proves that commitment to Supported Employment continues to grow in Ohio, throughout nation

—by Matthew K. Weiland and Paul M. Kubek

Columbus, OH—Celebrating its third anniversary, the annual conference of the Ohio Supported Employment Coordinating Center of Excellence (Ohio SE CCOE) drew close to 200 participants from Ohio and 10 additional states, demonstrating the growing national interest in Supported Employment (SE), the evidence-based practice for people with severe mental illness. The Ohio SE CCOE is an initiative of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP) at Case Western Reserve University.

This year's conference, titled "Embracing Change at Work," was held March 18 and 19 at the Doubletree Hotel. There were two keynote plenary sessions and two-dozen practical workshops that covered a spectrum of topics, helping administrators, team leaders, and direct-service providers develop and sustain skills to support SE in their organizations and communities.

Keynote Sessions and Workshops Recap

Research Results

From Indianapolis, Indiana

Gary Bond, Ph.D., Chancellor's Professor in the Department of Psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, recaps his keynote presentation, focusing on some evidence for SE.

Motivational Interviewing

From Cincinnati, Ohio

Psychologist Brett Dowdy, Ph.D., of Cincinnati, Ohio, recaps his all-day workshops that focused upon the use of motivational interviewing (MI) in SE services.

Take-Homes From The Conference

A montage of three conference participants who talk about some ah-ha moments at the conference.

From Grand Rapids, Michigan

Amy Miller, director of training at Goodwill Industries, Inc., reflects upon the value of making connections with peers.

From Cleveland, Ohio

Ryan Might, mentor-trainer at the Veterans Administration (VA), has found a connection with other providers who have ideas for overcoming some barriers to SE services.

Eric Morse, director of homeless services at Mental Health Services, Inc. (MHS), talks about the benefits planning workshop he attended, which busted a couple of myths and misconceptions he's had about SSI.

Military Vets Get Back To Work

From Cleveland, Ohio

Ryan Might, mentor-trainer at the Veterans Administration (VA), recounts one of the first SE success stories from the Cleveland VA. Learn how one employer's concern for a veteran with schizophrenia made him an extension of this consumer's recovery services team.

Psychiatrists & Other Medical Professionals

From Cleveland, Ohio

Psychiatrist Robert J. Ronis, MD, recounts how hope, optimism, and the principles of SE helped a consumer make major personal and professional strides in a nursing career and her recovery.

Discovering Her Dream Job

From Portsmouth, Ohio

New to Supported Employment, Vocational Specialist Billie Pearson tells a story about a woman in this southernmost and rural part of Ohio who desperately wanted out of a fast-food job that was pushing her to the brink. Discover how this woman eventually followed her calling—for a life on the road.

    Gary Bond: Supported Employment Pioneer

    Among the presenters was keynote speaker Gary Bond, Ph.D., Chancellor's Professor in the Department of Psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a pioneer in the field of evidence-based practices for people with severe mental illness. His research has focused primarily on SE and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT).

    Dr. Bond spoke about national studies which illustrate that people with severe mental illness are more likely to find and keep a competitive job of their choice in their community when service providers utilize SE principles and practices. Dr. Bond highlighted the following evidence:

    • Only about 5 percent of people with severe mental illness get the services they want.
    • The chance of consumers getting a job is at least twice as high if they receive evidence-based Supported Employment services.
    • After ten years, nearly half of the people who get SE services are still working.
    • Consumers who are employed have better control of symptoms and higher self-esteem.
    • Research shows that SE is effective not only in the United States but also in Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and Hong Kong.
    • SE is effective with many different cultural groups.
    • The evidence for SE is stronger than any other psychosocial intervention for people with severe mental illness.

    Brett Dowdy: Motivational Interviewing For SE

    One of the main attractions of the conference that supported this year's theme of "Embracing Change at Work" was an all-day workshop (offered both days) on the use of motivational interviewing (MI) specifically for Supported Employment. MI is a method for helping people who are ambivalent about a particular change take steps to achieve personally meaningful goals. MI is especially effective for service providers who work with consumers and for their supervisors to help service team members enhance their skills.

    This workshop was conducted by Brett Dowdy, Ph.D., a Cincinnati-based psychologist who has conducted numerous MI trainings throughout Ohio. Dr. Dowdy is a Clinical Administrator at Summit Behavioral Healthcare, a 250-bed inpatient state hospital. His workshop emphasized the following:

    • MI helps service providers understand each consumer's perspective about the pros and cons of working.
    • MI helps service providers understand each consumer's vision and goals for work.
    • Skills develop and improve with regular practice.
    • Portions of staff meetings or group supervision sessions can be used to role play and rehearse MI skills with team members and engage in exercises to practice such skills as reflective listening, avoiding argumentation, rolling with resistance, and supporting consumer self-efficacy.
    • There are fun and entertaining ways of rehearsing and practicing that can bring some humor into a staff meeting.

    Other Presenters & Workshops

    A number of staff members, associates, and friends of the Ohio SE CCOE presented workshops, as well. Three noted guest speakers included the following:

    • David Lynde, MSW, co-director of the Dartmouth Evidence-Based Practices Center
    • Sandra Stephenson, MSW, LISW, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health
    • John Connelly, JD, executive director of Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission

    Other conference topics included the following:

    • Person-Centered Job Development
    • Medications, Practical Tips, and Managing Side Effects for Work
    • Benefits Planning: The Argument for Work
    • Follow-Along: Roles, Obstacles & Challenges when Developing a Collaborative Plan
    • Disclosure, Privacy, and Informed Choice
    • Effective Employment Specialists: Skills & Characteristics
    • Medicaid Buy-In: Information and Consultation
    • Partnering with Consumer-Operated Services (COS): Promoting Work in Recovery
    • Job Development: When a Legal History is Present

    Peer Networking

    Perhaps of even greater importance to participants, though, were the informal conversations that occurred between the workshops and plenary sessions. These were occasions for people to meet for the first time, to get reacquainted, and to share stories of implementation challenges and consumer successes. From this combination of formal and informal dialogue, many people took home inspirational stories as well as practical advice-all of which contribute to a larger sense of community, the knowledge that they aren't alone in their efforts.

    Upcoming Training Sessions

    Building upon the success of this year's annual conference, the Ohio SE CCOE plans to hold more regional training events and regional meetings. Both are intended to share lessons learned from implementation. Keep checking the Ohio SE CCOE's online event calendar for information about upcoming trainings and meetings in your area.

    The National Scene

    Supported Employment (SE), the evidence-based practice, was created and is studied by researchers Deborah R. Becker, MEd, CRC, Robert E. Drake, MD, PhD, Gary Bond, PhD, and their colleagues at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center of Dartmouth Medical School. SE is also known as Individual Placement & Support (IPS).

    The Dartmouth PRC has provided leadership for national implementation of SE via the Johnson & Johnson-Dartmouth Community Mental Health Program. The State of Ohio and the Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP) at Case Western Reserve University—through its Ohio SE Coordinating Center of Excellence (CCOE)—are participating in this national initiative.