People with psychiatric impairments (primarily schizophrenia or a mood disorder) are the largest and fastest-growing group of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. The authors investigated whether evidence-based supported employment and mental health treatments can improve vocational and mental health recovery for this population.
Using a randomized controlled trial design, the authors tested a multifaceted intervention: team-based supported employment, systematic medication management, and other behavioral health services, along with elimination of barriers by providing complete health insurance coverage (with no out-of-pocket expenses) and suspending disability reviews. The control group received usual services. Paid employment was the primary outcome measure, and overall mental health and quality of life were secondary outcome measures.
Overall, 2,059 SSDI beneficiaries with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression in 23 cities participated in the 2-year intervention. The teams implemented the intervention package with acceptable fidelity. The intervention group experienced more paid employment (60.3% compared with 40.2%) and reported better mental health and quality of life than the control group.
Implementation of the complex intervention in routine mental health treatment settings was feasible, and the intervention was effective in assisting individuals disabled by schizophrenia or depression to return to work and improve their mental health and quality of life.