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CLINTON — The Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region approved proceeding with a letter of commitment for $100,000 in seed funding to help people with mental illness find employment.

The funding would allow the Robert Young Center to pursue being one of three early adopter sites in the state, which means, if selected, it would be an Individual Support and Placement provider for Clinton, Cedar, Jackson and Muscatine counties. That program helps individuals living with mental illness obtain competitive employment in the community.

The region would only spend the $100,000 if it is approved as one of the three early adopter sites in the state. The $100,000 in seed funding would be one-time funding, Paul Phares, of the Robert Young Center, said.

The funds would not come out of the regional fund but would come out of the individual county fund balances, Region CEO Lori Elam said. She noted the region as of last week was more than $800,000 over the 40% cap requirement set by state legislation.

Phares presented a proposal to the region board last week for the Robert Young Center to serve as an IPS provider for four counties in the five-county region. The remaining county, Scott County, is not eligible for the program because it already has an IPS pilot program in place, Elam said. The Scott County pilot program is set up through Vera French, she said.

IPS programs help individuals living with mental illness obtain competitive employment in the community, Phares said last week. This is a diversion from the old version of supported employment, Phares said.

“Historically, supported employment was set up that the clinicians kind of could forecast and know if somebody was a good candidate for employment,” Phares said. “IPS really turns that on its head. There’s no exclusionary criteria. All that a client has to do is express an interest in becoming employed in order for the IPS team to start working with them.”

The proposal includes having four full-time employment specialists, Phares said. The proposal calls for two specialists to be headquartered in Clinton County and two specialists to be in Muscatine County, he said. This would allow for adequate coverage of the four-county area, Phares believes. It would also minimize time lost due to travel and allow for coverage in the case of vacations, he added.

Cedar County board representative Dawn Smith questioned what happens if an individual becomes unstable and does not show up for work or needs to take time off to be in the hospital. She asked if they are flunked out of the program if they do not show up for work for a certain situation.

IPS offers on-the-job support and also supports the employer after a hire, Phares said. They will do everything they can to save the placement, he said. IPS does not tell the employers what to do regarding someone’s employment but tries to bring the employer high-quality candidates, Phares stressed.

“I won’t sit here and lie and tell you that every time we get somebody in a job start, they keep that job forever. That’s not the case,” Phares said. “People get let go. But in the same way, if I go to work and act up, my supervisor is going to come talk to me about it.”

There is also nuance as to whether the client chooses to disclose a condition to the employer, Phares said. They do not ever force an individual to disclose their condition but it is more helpful for job support and job coaching, he said.

The Iowa Department of Human Services Division of Community Mental Health and Disability Services on June 4 sent an announcement of request for letters of interest for individual placement and support. The announcement notes up to three IPS early adopter sites will be selected. There are several IPS pilot sites and teams providing services to residents of 14 counties, the announcement notes.

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