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Peoria Workforce Action Grant:
Leveraging Resources


Project Overview

Grant number, name, and location: Workforce Action Grant, Peoria IL, #E-9-4-2-0115

Grant recipient: Human Service Center

Project lead: Human Service Center

Subcontractors: City of Peoria Workforce Network and Northwestern Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Key Lessons/Accomplishments

Interagency Coordination

Historically, in Peoria and the State of Illinois, the Department of Health Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), and the Peoria Workforce Development Network have all had some capacity to provide vocational services to individuals with severe mental illness. However, all these services have been uncoordinated and unable to meet the needs of individuals with severe mental illness due to lack of resources and/or time limits on services (click here for more information). The Human Service Center, the grant recipient, took great strides to build working relationships with the local- and state-level Division of Mental Health (DMH) and DRS offices. Through these relationships, they began to discuss state funding of vocational services for individuals with severe mental illness.

The project used a number of funding streams beyond grant funds to pay for individual service provisions. This was coordinated on an individual basis, guided by each individual's need and current resources. Most funding collaboration was with DRS. DRS paid for or helped pay for college tuition, textbooks, and equipment for work. More recently, DRS paid an individual's salary for the first 30 days of employment while they participated in on-the job-training.

Two individuals who were interested in starting their own business began working with a student intern from Bradley University's Business Incubator project. The student assisted the individuals in writing business plans, which were then submitted to DRS for financial assistance. This resource was identified through the Self-Employment Resource Network, a statewide group that worked to increase self-employment for persons with disabilities.

The project developed a cross-referral system whereby persons with mental illness who might benefit from existing DRS services were referred by the Supported Employment program (SEP) and accepted by the local DRS psychiatric specialist. People with significant psychiatric difficulties were referred by DRS to the SEP program for intensive vocational services. This was more of a verbal agreement with the local DRS office, which increased the speed of processing referrals and beginning service delivery.

Numerous individuals were referred to DRS to cover the cost of education and training during their career exploration. In addition, DRS assisted individuals with job development, job applications, and resume creation. The project had an agreement with the local DRS office that individuals referred could have a rapidly opened case in order to receive immediate approval for financial supports to remove specific employment barriers such as union dues, forklift certification, and GED fees. Prior to this grant, DRS and mental health providers in Illinois had not collaborated on individual cases. DRS also worked with the project to expand the nature and types of services offered to consumers with serious mental illness.

In addition to state agency resources, project participants accessed clothing donations through community clothing providers such as Friendship House Dress for Success, South Side Mission Thrift Shop, and Goodwill Clothing Store.

With the assistance of project staff, individuals accessed the local One-Stop (Workforce Development Network) for skill assessments, interest inventories, career planning and advice, development of representational materials, job leads, and referrals. They used the computer library, local job postings, and computer training programs available to customers. One-Stop staff also completed role-playing and mock interviews with individuals from the project.

Use of Innovative Funding Resources

The project initially billed case management and assessment services under the Medicaid rehabilitation option. During the latter part of their third year this practice was ceased as the state became uncertain regarding what services could be billed to Medicaid. More discussion of this is in the Policy and Systematic Influence section.

At the beginning of 2006, the Human Service Center enrolled as an Employment Network under the Social Security Ticket to Work project. They foresaw this as an additional funding stream to continue Customized Employment services for individuals after the grant ended. The project also discussed sharing payments with DRS for individuals served by both systems. As of this report, the project had not yet accepted any Tickets.

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