Polk County Health Services

Three-year Employment Project Project Outcomes

Year One (2001) Summary:

Three key objectives were accomplished in Year One. An examination of the characteristics of the individuals receiving employment services was completed. The findings showed that these individuals have limited education and training and that this education deficit poses one of the biggest barriers to achieving successful employment outcomes. A second fining was that persons with mental illness experience high levels of unemployment while persons with mental retardation and developmental disabilities are underemployed. This suggests that different strategies or interventions may be necessary for each population group. A second accomplishment was the completion of an independent evaluation of supported employment providers by the National Results Council (NRC). All providers of supported employment in Polk County have and will continue to report their placement data to the NRC. From this data, the NRC issues quarterly report cards that describe the effectiveness and efficiency of supported employment services. The first report issued in May 2000 had these findings:

  1. The average hourly wage of consumers in supported employment in Polk County is $6.00 while the national average in $5.33.
  2. The average hours worked per week is 19 compared to the national average of 22.

Year Two (2002):

Employment Project First Quarter Report

Selection of Consumers
One hundred thirty three consumers were nominated by case management and capitation agencies in Polk County to participate in the project. Of these 133 individuals, 50 participants were selected. Participants were randomly selected within each agency to ensure equal representation by agency. Using only random selection, the group of selected participants appears to represent the population of eligible individuals.

Informed Consent Meetings
These meetings are held with consumers to give them information about the project and to receive their consent to participate. Data collection begins at these meetings. Consumers and family members complete an employment opinion questionnaire, which is a brief survey asking for their opinions and attitudes about employment and the effects of employment on income and public benefits. Two other surveys, employment history and benefits planning intake forms are also completed at this meeting. Two Informed Consent meetings were held in September with a total of 18 consumers attending. Training sessions were also held for case managers who have individuals involved in the project. Case managers also completed the employment opinion questionnaire.

Year Two Summary:

Consumer Participation
Forty-one individuals participated in the project in Year 2. Below is a demographic breakdown of the participants:

Median Age : 38  
Gender : %54 Female %46 Male
Race : %93 Caucasian %7 African American
Disability : %63 Mental Illness %37 Mental Retardation or Developmentally Disabled

Year Two Interventions and Rationale
Benefits Planning was the first intervention introduced during project Year 2. During focus group discussions with consumers in Year 1, many had expressed concerns regarding the effect of employment on receipt of public benefits. With the provision of benefits planning, it was believed that consumers would have a greater understanding of the incentives to go to work, and this would diminish the fear of loss of benefits.

The second intervention utilized in Year 2 was Employment Choice. Rather than a participant being referred or assigned to an employment agency, the consumer would get to choose his or her employment provider. By giving the consumer the opportunity to choose the employment provider, it was felt that employment outcomes would be improved.

Informed Consent Meetings
These meetings were held with consumers to provide them information about the project and to receive their consent to participate. All consumers who participated in the project attended one of the three Informed Consent meetings held in Year 2. Data collection began at these meetings. Consumers and their case managers completed an employment opinion questionnaire, which is a brief survey asking for their opinions and attitudes about employment and the effects of employment income of public benefits. Two other surveys, employment history and benefits planning intake forms were also completed at this meeting.

Benefits Planning
Each consumer received benefits planning from CS Vocational Consultants, an employment services and consulting agency in Polk County. Participants were provided benefits planning during two meetings with CS Vocational Consultants personnel. During the course of the first meeting, participants provided their benefits information to CS Vocational Consultants. At the second meeting each participant was provided an individualized benefits plan, which showed the effects of employment wages on the individual’s benefits. After the completion of the second benefits planning session, both participants and case managers again completed the employment opinion questionnaire.

Employment Choice Forums
To provide participants the opportunity to select their employment providers, three Employment Choice Forums were held during the year. At these forums eight employment providers in Polk County presented information about their employment services. After the formal presentations were completed then participants had the opportunity to visit personally with each employment provider. The eight organizations that participated in the Employment Choice forums were:

Participants were then given two weeks to make their decision.

Results of Interventions
After completion of benefits planning did participants show an increased understanding of public benefits programs?
Participants showed a modest improvement in their knowledge about how much they could earn without affecting their benefits, what happened to their benefits once they earned more than that amount, and how long they could retain health care even if their other benefits ceased.

With the completion of benefits planning did consumers report a greater likelihood that they would become employed or that they would improve their employment over the next 12 months.
Participants remained relatively unchanged in their perception of their employment prospects after completing benefits planning.

Did consumers utilize the range of employment providers?
Most tended to choose one of the five community rehabilitation providers rather than the mainstream choices of Manpower or Workforce Development. It should be noted, however, that personnel of Workforce Development only attended one of the three Employment Choice forums.

Did consumers show improvement in their employment outcomes?
There was slight improvement in the employment outcomes, but it was a very modest improvement. Of those working, the average wage is $7.00 per hour and the average hours worked per week is 13.6.

Year Two Summary and Implications
Receiving benefits planning does not appear to serve as a catalyst for people with disabilities to seek employment. This does not suggest, however, that benefits planning is not important or critical. In fact, it is unlikely that people with disabilities will seek employment without some degree of knowledge regarding the impact that wages will have on benefits. However, it appears that benefits planning will have to be provided in combination with other strategies in order to motivate people with disabilities to seek self-sufficiency through employment. Benefits planning will continue to be an intervention in the project in Year 3.

Employment choice did not have much of an impact on employment outcomes, either. Participants tended to choose organizations with a history of serving people with disabilities rather than generic or mainstream employment services. Many participants have not had the opportunity to exercise much choice in their lives and may not have been comfortable or experienced in being a consumer. Project personnel believe that choice of an employment provider should remain an option for people with disabilities.

Year Three Plan:
Based on what has been learned in the first two years of the project, a new series of interventions will be introduced in Year 3. Participants from Year 2 will be invited to remain in the project and utilize the interventions in Year 3. The two primary interventions from Year 2, Benefits Planning and Employment Choice, will remain in Year 3. However, this year participants will use the National Results Council report card to select their employment provider rather than the choice forums utilized in Year 2.

The new interventions for Year 3 will include the following:

Selections of Consumers
Each of the case management, capitation and employment provider agencies in Polk County will be asked to submit 3 names of individuals who are interested in participating in the project. Fifty individuals will participate in the project in Year 3.

Phase Three
Three tracks will be available for participants to choose in Phase 3:

Readiness for Work
This track is designed for individuals who need to learn the “soft skills” necessary for employment. These include work habits such as punctuality, good attendance, motivation, grooming, interpersonal skills and communication. In addition, participants will receive information about the resources available to find jobs as well as the education and training programs to enhance work skills. Upon completion of this track, participants can choose to start either the Job Placement or Skills Training track.

Job Placement
The Job Placement Track is intended for individuals who are ready for employment. This track will include information on the resources available to assist people in finding employment, such as community rehabilitation programs, staffing industry companies and Workforce Development. Participants may use the NRC report card to help them make their decision. An employer job fair will also be held. If a participant is unsuccessful in obtaining a job, he/she can opt to enter one of the two other tracks.

Skills Training
This track is for individuals who want to acquire new work skills prior to obtaining a job. Participants can choose to take an industry-specific skills training program, such as a bindery operations course through the Graphics Technology Center of Iowa. Project personnel hope to have additional skills training programs in place in order to provide additional options for participants.