Louisiana has been chosen as the recipient of a grant that will help people with serious mental illness who want to get jobs.

The Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Behavioral Health will partner with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services to develop a formal agreement to ensure agencies collaborate to improve employment outcomes for individuals with a serious mental illness.

The United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy selected Louisiana as a grant recipient through the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program. The Provider Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE) grant provides the Office of Behavioral Health with 100 hours of training and technical assistance needed to help people in the target population find meaningful jobs.

“Louisiana has made great strides toward improvements to disability employment policy,” said Karen Stubbs, assistant secretary of the Office of Behavioral Health. “With this grant, we will be able to build on that progress in order to identify and overcome barriers faced by individuals with serious mental illness through partnership with the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services system, Office of the Governor, Louisiana Workforce Commission and others, helping them to find gainful employment.”

Other steps Louisiana has taken include the Department of Health’s agreement with the federal Department of Justice to help ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities, as well as completion of the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

The Department of Justice agreement requires that Louisiana residents with mental illness be cared for in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs while also making improvements to the existing behavioral health service delivery system. The agreement was developed in response to a Department of Justice investigation and its findings, which alleged that Louisiana unnecessarily relies on nursing facilities to serve people with serious mental illness.

Through the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program, Louisiana and a broad network of stakeholders created a series of reports establishing a framework for additional systems change regarding individuals with disabilities. The reports include the Louisiana Employment First Report, the Louisiana Employment Resource Guide and the State as a Model Employer Task Force Report.