Learn More About IPS Supported Employment

Tennessee began providing IPS Supported Employment services to individuals with severe mental illness in October 2013 at four agencies across the state. These pilot programs obtained support and funding from the Department of Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS). As of September 2022, IPS services have expanded to 52 counties across Tennessee, 35 of which are in rural areas of the state and 17 in urban areas.  There are 16 IPS supported employment providers, 14 of which partner with DHS/VR to deliver IPS services. 

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IPS services are now provided in all VR and TDMHSAS regions across the state as well. Since the IPS model is unique, Tennessee’s VR staff have taken great strides to ensure VR counselors collaborate closely with IPS Specialists to allow for better integration of services. VR counselors and IPS Specialists communicate frequently to ensure clients are receiving the support needed to reach their goals. VR has also made changes to their service processes and documentation requirements in order to better align services with the IPS model.

IPS Supported Education services were added in 2015 as part of mental health initiatives targeting youth and young adults. At this time, there are 12 IPS Supported Employment and Education Specialists serving youth and young adults across the state that are housed within grant programs for the First Episode Psychosis Initiative (FEPI), Juvenile Justice Reform (JJR), Healthy Transitions (HT), and Clinical High Risk for Psychosis (CHR-P). Tennessee also has two programs who are currently part of a national Social Security Administration study providing Supported Employment services to individuals who have been initially denied benefits.

Click image to the right to download the Tennessee IPS Onepager.

Each IPS program in Tennessee collaborates with a Statewide IPS Trainer for ongoing support and technical assistance. The Trainers, along with TDMHSAS and VR, conduct fidelity reviews to determine the efficiency of each program and ensure the programs are implementing the IPS model effectively. Agencies are required to meet “good fidelity” when implementing the IPS model. Research shows that programs that align closely with fidelity have better client outcomes. The Trainers work alongside the agencies throughout the year to assist them in better implementing the model to serve more individuals and assist more people in reaching their goals.

TDMHSAS, VR, and the Trainers also work together to expand IPS services across the state through various taskforces and pre-implementation discussions with interested agencies. Tennessee is exploring opportunities for expansion in potential partnerships with Tennessee’s Medicaid authority (TennCare), the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and other divisions within the Department of Human Services. Tennessee is currently piloting an IPS program in conjunction with the Department of Human Services to provide IPS services to individuals who are also receiving Families First benefits, which is Tennessee’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

During the last fiscal year, 1,096 people with severe mental illness were served by IPS programs in the state. With the assistance of IPS Specialists, 46% of the individuals served were able to obtain jobs!

PDF Download: Making the Case for IPS


Employment First in Tennessee

The Employment First Taskforce was created to address barriers and create solutions for Tennesseans with disabilities in the workforce. The Taskforce consists of representatives from the agencies administering disability services, family members of persons receiving employment services, vocational rehabilitation, workforce services, education entities, consumer advocates and third-party disability service providers. TDMHSAS, the IPS Trainers, Vocational Rehabilitation and mental health providers participate to represent the behavioral health community. As part of the Taskforce, a Mental Health Workgroup was established to specifically focus on the behavioral health needs of people in Tennessee. Each year the Governor is presented with an Expect Employment Report which outlines what was accomplished by the Taskforce. More information about the Employment First Taskforce can be found here.