Beneficiary Employment and Engagement

My brother didn't find out he had Asperger syndrome until he went to prison . . . I think if he had the support and medication he needed, he probably wouldn't have ended up in prison.

Get out of isolation. Get out of your comfort zone. Belong to a friendship, a relationship, the community. Get connected somehow and just take that one step forward. Take a chance and you will start feeling better. One step at a time. I’ve experienced it, as well and I believe connection is healing.

– Odyssey, Fairbanks


Recent data reveals that only 49 percent of Alaskans with a disability are currently employed, compared to 78 percent of those without disabilities. For some Trust beneficiary groups, the rate of employment is even lower. For example, only 30 percent of Alaskans with a cognitive disability are employed.

Work is viewed as an essential part of recovery for individuals with a serious mental illness and has a positive impact on self-esteem, life satisfaction, and reducing symptoms. Additionally, employment is a way out of poverty and a way to prevent people from entering the disability system. Similarly, meaningful community engagement opportunities reduce isolation and promote health and well-being.

Goals + Strategies

The primary goal of the Beneficiary Employment and Engagement focus area is to improve outcomes for beneficiaries through integrated, competitive employment, and meaningful engagement opportunities. The Trust promotes evidence-based strategies and best practices that increase opportunities and enable beneficiaries to gain integrated, competitive employment and meaningful engagement in their communities.

In 2014, Alaska passed legislation to become an “Employment First” state. Employment First means that employment in the general workforce should be the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems. Simply put, Employment First means real jobs, real wages (APSE).

The Trust supports varying strategies through both funding and advocacy that include integrated employment supports, meaningful activities, beneficiary and workforce training, and peer-based recovery support programs.


Jimael Johnson, Program Officer


Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE).

Erickson, W., Lee, C., & von Schrader, S. (2018). 2016 Disability Status Report: Alaska. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability (YTI).

Individual Placement and Supports (IPS) Employment Center. (2018). Evidence for IPS. Retrieved from