Iowa Promotes Competitive Integrated Employment through Participation in ASPIRE

February 16, 2023

Iowa was selected by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, as one of seven states participating in the second round of the ASPIRE Initiative—Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment. Iowa is one of four states that participated in the first round of the initiative, with the overall goal of promoting competitive integrated employment for individuals with mental health conditions by aligning state policies, programs, and funding.

Leading the initiative in Iowa is Lin Nibbelink, Employment Policy Planner for Iowa’s Division of Behavioral Health and Disability Services, and Tammie Amsbaugh, a Program Manager at Iowa’s UCEDD, who serves as State Policy Project Manager for Iowa’s Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health (CEBH). States participating in ASPIRE receive technical assistance to expand evidence-based practices, such as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment.

Iowa’s participation in the first round of ASPIRE dovetailed well with the launch of the new CEBH early in 2022. The launch of CEBH, based at Iowa’s UCEDD, has supported the promotion of three evidence-based practices to serve Iowans with serious mental illness: Assertive Community Treatment, Permanent Supportive Housing, and Individual Placement and Support (IPS).

With the first round of ASPIRE funding, Iowa focused on building capacity and developing the infrastructure to support IPS in the state. But several challenges, including being a state that is 90% rural, made this difficult. In addition, being perceived as a state that lacks diversity challenged the recognition of the state’s underserved populations, including justice-involved, homeless, religious, LGBTQ, refugee and immigrant, as well as racial and ethnic populations. And with workforce challenges made worse during the pandemic, providers were hesitant to try something new.

Currently, there are five IPS teams in Iowa, which serve 23 of the state’s 99 counties. During the second round of the ASPIRE initiative, Iowa plans to add four more teams to serve enough people for a baseline IPS fidelity review by the end of 2023. Another goal is to continue to develop IPS Trainers/Fidelity Reviewers in the state. And in addition to building capacity and infrastructure for IPS, promoting diversity, equity and inclusion is integral to the initiative so that underserved populations are not overlooked.

Iowa’s UCEDD is working with familiar partners as part of the state’s multi-agency ASPIRE team, joining the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the state’s local MHDS Regions, and CMHCs and CCBHCs throughout the state.

For more information about Iowa’s ASPIRE project, get in touch with Tammie Amsbaugh at [email protected].

For more information about Iowa’s CEBH, get in touch with Torie Keith at [email protected].