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
The primary goal of the Beneficiary Employment and Engagement (BEE) focus area is to improve outcomes and promote recovery 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 achieve these outcomes.
Prior to the additional goal of Beneficiary Employment in 2014, the Beneficiary Project Initiatives (BPI) focus area originated in 2004 to help beneficiaries conceive and manage programs that focus on peer-to-peer support. The purpose of the focus area was to develop safe, effective services for beneficiaries using a peer support, recovery-based model. BPI funded agencies continue to serve exceptionally vulnerable beneficiaries using peer-support recovery oriented services. Many beneficiaries served by these agencies are unable or unwilling to receive services at traditional behavioral health agencies due to intensive and complex needs. BPI is retained as a primary strategy in the recently integrated BEE focus area.
Recent data reveals that only 40 percent of Alaskans with a disability are currently employed, compared to 80 percent of those without disabilities. For some Trust beneficiary groups, the rate of employment is even lower. For example, only 26 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. Further, meaningful community engagement opportunities reduce isolation and promote health and well-being. 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. The Trust is actively working with stakeholders to further identify strategies and measures of progress to implement the Employment First philosophy into policy and practice.
Alignment with the Comprehensive Mental Health Program Plan
The work of the Trust aligns with Strengthening the System: Alaska’s Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Program Plan (comp plan), that was developed in a partnership between the Trust and the Department of Health and Social Services in coordination with community stakeholders. The Comp Plan identifies priorities for the next five years to inform planning and funding decisions to meet the needs of Trust beneficiaries. The intent is to strengthen the system of care to allow a comprehensive approach that quickly meets their needs.
Employment and recovery support service (including peer support) themes emerged in the development of the plan. The two key objectives noted below illustrate alignment for topical focus areas related to Beneficiary Employment and Engagement:
Goal 3, Objective 3.2: Economic and Social Well-Being – Ensure that Competitive and integrated employment at part-time or full-time jobs pays minimum wage or above in integrated, typical work settings.
Goal 4, Objective 4.4: Substance Use Disorder Prevention – Utilize ongoing recovery support services to end the cycle of substance misuse.
- Alaska Work Matters Task Force: Final Report (2022)
- Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Beneficiary Employment Policy Review, 2014 (University of Massachusetts Boston)
- Alaska: Annual Disability Status Report 2017 (Cornell University Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, 2019)
- 2018 Employment Learning Lab and National Governor's Association Recommendations for Alaska
- Road to Recovery: Employment and Mental Illness (NAMI, 2014)
- Recovery Support Tools and Resources: Peer Workers (SAMHSA, 2019)
- Microenterprise Policy & Procedures Manual (UAA, 2015)
- Alaska DVR: 2020 Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment (Alaska Department of Labor, 2020)
- APSE Employment First Self Advocates Statement (2019)
- Individual Placement and Supports - IPS Supported Employment Handout
- Alaska Transition Handbook: Pathway to Adulthood and Employment, DHSS