CWC

Strong Workforce | Healthy Connecticut

Projects

Connecticut Recovery Employment Consultation Service (C-RECS)

Increasing Employment of Persons in Recovery in the Behavioral Health Workforce

Overview: The Connecticut Recovery Employment Consultation Service was a consumer-run intervention designed to increase employment of persons in recovery in the behavioral health workforce. Its core elements included work/life coaching; employment mentoring by peers, support groups; education and training on recovery topics; an on-line job bank; and consultation to employers of the behavioral health workforce.

Need: There is a growing evidence-base that persons with behavioral health problems benefit from the help of “peers” – individuals who have experienced and are in recovery from mental health and substance abuse conditions. Therefore, increasing the number of such individuals in the behavioral health workforce can impact positively on those who are employed and those receiving their services. However, there are inadequate structures in place to facilitate the recruitment, pre-employment training, job placement, and post-training support of persons in recovery. Organizational change is also needed in most behavioral health settings to create a culture in which peers are valued and supported in their workforce roles.

Objectives:

  1. To increase the number of persons in recovery employed and retained in competitive positions at all levels in the behavioral health workforce;
  2. To develop an infrastructure staffed and led by persons in recovery to promote the hiring and retention of persons in recovery in the behavioral health workforce;
  3. To support a culture change within behavioral health organizations that promotes full inclusion of persons in recovery as valued, productive employees.

Activities: The Connecticut Recovery Employment Consultation Service was managed by Focus on Recovery-United, Inc. (FOR-U), a private non-profit organization in Middletown, CT managed and staffed by persons in recovery. It provided a recruitment and placement service built around the concept of work/life coaching, which focuses on developing a person-centered employment action plan that takes personal life circumstances into account. The C-RECS model included an on-line job bank and group support from peers to facilitate and sustain their employment in the behavioral health workforce. It also involved the provision of technical assistance to provider agencies on integrating persons in recovery into their workforce and building a recovery-oriented organizational culture. Staff training within these agencies about peer roles in the workforce was one element of this intervention.

Results: During project operation from May 2008-September 2010, C-RECS met or surpassed its goals. Approximately 300 individuals received assistance and over 1,500 coaching sessions were provided. Forty-five participants obtained employment in the behavioral health field; 14 full-time and 31 part-time. Job titles included peer mentor, counselor, peer support specialist, drug and alcohol counselor, grants manager, office manager, IT assistant, recreation aide, recovery coach, RN supervisor, residential assistant manager, dietary/health aide and driver. An additional 36 individuals obtained employment outside of the behavioral health field; 11 full-time and 25 part-time. At least 8 of those hired are no longer receiving SSI or SSDI entitlements as a result of employment, and 6 are receiving employer-offered benefits, including health insurance. Follow-up survey results obtained from 36 respondents after two years of program operation showed that 69% were still employed. Overall, the program more than doubled the anticipated results and accomplished this amidst one of the most severe economic recessions in recent decades.

Post employment coaching was available along with three peer employment support groups that met regularly to assist employed individuals and those seeking employment. An on-line job bank remains available at crecs.org. Between its inception and October 2010 it has had 1,659 jobs posted by 44 employers; 339 registered job-seekers; and 20,592 “hits” by 5,163 unique visitors.

Numerous behavioral health employers received consultation and technical assistance on peer employment. In addition, a statewide training conference was hosted for 30 human resource and administrative staff on strategies for the successful employment of persons in recovery. Two webinars also were hosted for a total of 70 participants, addressing legal and personnel aspects of peer employment.

Current Status: Given the current economic climate, sustainability funding was not available and the program formally ended in January 2011. Transitional support was provided to program participants and some staff remained at FOR-U assigned to a new federally funded three-year networking grant awarded to the organization in 2009. The program website continues to be available as a resource. A Recovery Employment Consultation Service Guide was completed and is posted on the Connecticut Workforce Collaborative website to assist agencies interested in initiating a similar program.