State hospitals in Ohio bring new meaning to rapid job-search

—by Nicole Clevenger and Paul M. Kubek

Columbus, OH—Vocational specialists from the State of Ohio's inpatient Behavioral Healthcare Organizations (BHOs) are putting to rest fears about symptoms of mental illness interfering with a person's ability to work. The specialists are exploring how they might help some people obtain or return to competitive jobs in the community as part of their transition out of the hospital, before discharge.

For the first time, representatives from four hospitals gathered in Columbus to network with their counterparts in community-based mental health agencies who are providing evidence-based Supported Employment (SE) services. Participants discussed the utility of SE principles and practices and methods to better partner with each other to ensure continuity of services for people interested in beginning or continuing their employment upon discharge. The meeting took place in September immediately following a training provided by the Ohio Supported Employment Coordinating Center of Excellence (Ohio SE CCOE), an initiative of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University. The meeting is evidence of a growing interest in Ohio for an inpatient adaptation of the evidence-based SE model.

During the meeting, BHO vocational staff members described how they need to overcome some challenges to helping people secure jobs. For instance, it was explained that current state-hospital policy prohibits patients from having their own vehicles on site. Therefore, the vocational specialists may need to advocate for an accommodation to the rule to enable people to get to and from their jobs, so they can work in competitive jobs of their own choice in the community, which is one of the core principles of the SE model.

This challenge becomes even more significant when considering that many people are admitted to a BHO that is not necessarily located in the same community or county where their home or job is located. Therefore, employment specialists at the BHOs will need to provide a significant level of coordination to ensure that people can search for a job of their choice in the community of their choice, obtain that job, and maintain that job over time. This is one of the reasons why the BHO staff met with SE staff in community agencies: they hope to create a seamless system of care that maximizes the efforts of everyone involved.

Employment specialists noted that some consumers are legally restricted from leaving state-hospital campuses and, thus, are not able to seek competitive employment offsite. In these cases, service providers help them find jobs at the hospital. 

Nicole Clevenger, BFA, is a consultant and trainer at the Ohio SE Coordinating Center of Excellence, which is an initiative of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices (CEBP) at Case Western Reserve University. Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the CEBP.