|A significant number of our population includes persons with disabilities. In addition to independence, persons with disabilities want to have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work. Persons who live with serious and long-term mental illnesses continue to experience many obstacles in their quest for employment. Research results so far have been mixed in identifying the criteria necessary for persons with serious mental illness like bipolar disorder to enter and maintain successful long-term placement in employment.
This research assessed how professionals (human service providers) in the field utilized current best practices in supported employment, medication management, and case management to enable consumers enter and remain in the workforce. The target population consisted of 208 human service providers (rehabilitation counselors, mental health counselors, supported employment specialists, psychiatric nurses, case managers, and job coaches/job develop specialists) working in three Southeastern states. These 208 human service providers in these three states responded to a 66 statement self-report survey that asked them to identify best practices that they found enabled persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder to enter and remain in the workforce. The surveys were mailed to a population of 342 human service providers in 6 agencies and 208 responded resulting in a 61% response rate.
Analyses showed a statistically significant difference between the human service providers who utilized the three best practices and those who did not. Human service providers agreed that consumers were more able to work when medication management, case management, and supported employment practices were in place than when they were not. Medication management was ranked as the most important of the three best practices. Long term and ongoing case management practices was ranked as the second most important and supported employment practices was ranked third. The findings suggest that persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder must be made aware of the importance of medication and symptom management and must have access to medication management services. Agencies could thus be better equipped to enact policies that support the independence and work environment of persons diagnosed with bipolar and other serious mental illness. The results from this study add to the field of knowledge and could further clarify those criteria necessary to enable this group of persons with bipolar disorder to enter and remain a part of the workforce.