Corporate America Urged To Increase Disability Hiring

Wilson Yu — one of scores of people who have found work with Amazon through an arrangement with a disability service provider — fills an Amazon Prime order at a warehouse in Seattle. This week, several big investors joined together to encourage companies to increase employment of people with disabilities. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times/TNS)

A group of investors with over $1 trillion in assets is looking to use its clout to pressure companies into hiring more people with disabilities.

With a joint statement issued this week, the group led by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read is urging businesses they’re invested in to take a series of steps to better include those with disabilities.

“As investors representing over $1 trillion in assets under management, we believe companies must do more to include people with disabilities in the workforce,” reads the statement. “We want our portfolio companies to create sustainable, long-term value; this requires a workforce with a wide range of viewpoints, skills, abilities and experiences.”

Specifically, the investors want to see companies adopt several “best practices” including creating a disability hiring goal and measuring progress toward that goal, having a senior executive release a public statement of support for a resource group supporting employees with disabilities and adding disability representation to their diversity and inclusion statement.

The joint statement is also signed by the New York City comptroller, the Illinois treasurer, the California State Teachers Retirement System and asset manager Voya Financial.

“Companies that embrace disability inclusion in the workplace benefit from increased innovation as well as profitability,” said Read, the Oregon treasurer. “We are asking the companies we invest in to adopt policies to improve the representation of people with disabilities in their workforce and continue to identify opportunities for improvement.”

Ted Kennedy, Jr., board chair at the American Association of People with Disabilities, called the investors’ statement a “key turning point.”

“This new, concerted focus on corporate and shareholder engagement and accountability catapults the issue of disability inclusion,” he said. “Citizens, employees and shareholders will now be watching how companies respond to this new challenge and which corporations authentically support our goal of economic independence and workforce participation of millions of Americans with disabilities.”

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How to Start (and Continue!) a Conversation About Mental Health


You don’t need special training to have an open, authentic conversation about mental health – and often, just talking about it can be the first important step in understanding where someone is with their mental health, and helping them get support or treatment if needed.

Here are some quick pointers you can use for having a #RealConvo with the people in your life.

Let people know you’re willing to talk about #MentalHealth.

The easiest way to let people know you’re willing to talk about mental health is to be open about your own. Try to think of it in the same way you think about your physical health. Allow it to come up naturally in conversation in the same way.

If you’ve seen a mental health professional in the past, when the subject comes up, you might say, in your own words:

“I’ve had times in my life when I’ve struggled. I went to talk to someone, and it really helped me.”

A casual reference like the one above can have a powerful effect, letting others know you’re a safe person to talk to if they ever need to reach out.

What can you say to someone you think may be struggling?

Trust your gut if you think someone’s having a hard time, and speak to them privately. Start with an expression of care, followed by an observation.

“I care about you and I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. You seem more frustrated than you’ve been in a while, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.”

Normalize mental health by talking about it directly.

“I wonder if what’s happening at work these days is stressing you out.”

“With everything that’s going on in your family, I wonder if you’re feeling overwhelmed.”

Let them know you get it, and that it’s okay – and normal – to struggle in response to life’s challenges.

“I’ve been through things in my life, too, and what I’ve often found is that talking about it helps. Whatever it is, I’m here to listen and support you.”

The timing doesn’t have to be perfect

You may not always be able to speak with someone the moment you notice they might be struggling. It’s fine to circle back some other time soon.

“The other day I noticed you seemed upset. I made a note that I wanted to talk with you. I’m really concerned about how you’re doing. So let’s talk.”

Sometimes creating some space is the perfect thing to do. Let them know you can have the conversation at a time that’s right for them.

“Can we grab some coffee and talk about it?”

“Would you like to go for a walk?”

What if they hesitate?

The other person might worry that sharing how they feel will be a burden to others. They might say something like, “You must be sick of hearing about all of this,” or, “I don’t want to saddle you with my problems.”

In your own words, tell them:

“Not only am I not sick of it, but I care about you, so I want to be there for you. I get that life is complex – so I’m here to listen and support you.”

Would they be more comfortable talking to someone else?

If you suspect the other person might be more comfortable talking with someone else, you can offer to help connect them.

“Is talking to me about this helping you right now? Or is there someone else you’d feel more comfortable with, who we can bring in to help support you?”

What if they tell you they really are having a hard time?

Reassure them that it’s okay to talk about.

“You know what? Everyone goes through periods in their life when they’re struggling. But just because you’re struggling now doesn’t mean you’ll always feel this way.”

Then ask for more detail, and let them know they can go to that dark place with you.

“What’s the worst thing about what you’re going through right now?”

And make sure to include that getting help from a mental health professional can truly make a big difference in their situation.

Click here for guidance on how to lead the conversation and respond.

When the convo’s winding down…

End the conversation by reiterating that you are so glad for the chance to connect on this deeper level about such meaningful things in life. Remind them that we all have challenges at times, and that you’ll continue to be there for them.

Nicely done! You’ve had a #RealConvo about Mental Health! How do you follow up?

Give yourself a pat on the back for having a #RealConvo with someone!

But don’t just leave it at that. Follow up to let them know it was okay to open up, that you care, and that you’re still a “safe” person to talk to about mental health.

“You know, you’ve been on my mind since we had that conversation the other day.”

“I’ve really been thinking about what we talked about, and I want to circle back. How’re you feeling since we spoke?”

Being available to have a #RealConvo about mental health is an important way we can all be there for the people in our lives, whether it’s a friend, family member, or someone in your community. All it takes is a willingness to be open, honest and present with the people you care about.

We all have mental health. Reach out and have a #RealConvo with someone in your life today.

Check out (and share) our other AFSP #RealConvo Guides:

If Someone Tells You They’re Thinking About Suicide: A #RealConvo Guide from AFSP

Reaching Out for Help: A #RealConvo Guide from AFSP

How to Talk to a Suicide Loss Survivor: A #RealConvo Guide from AFSP


Like what you’re reading? Go to our Sharing Your Story page, where you’ll find resources for sharing your own story, including story ideas, blog submission guidelines, tips for sharing your story safely and creative exercises to help you get started, and assignments for upcoming topics.

Write a blog post for AFSP! Click here for our Submission Guidelines.

Article Retrieved From: American Foundation For Suicide Prevention,

Workplace Resources for Mental Health



The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 8 of 10 workers with a mental illness condition report shame and stigma which prevents them from getting treatment. In 2017, 20.8% of SSDI beneficiaries had a mental illness (U.S. Social Security 2018 Annual Statistical Supplement). The following links are workplace resources to help employ and accommodate individuals with this disability.

Federal Resources

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):  NIMH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. This link offers helpful and basic information on mental disorders, a range of related topics, and the latest developments on mental health research.

Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC):  A Q&A Document developed by the EEOC titled Depression, PTSD, and Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights.

Federal Resources from SAMHSA – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

ODEP Funded Resources

EARN’s Mental Health Toolkit: Resources for Fostering a Mentally Healthy Workplace: This toolkit from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) provides background, tools and resources that can help employers learn more about mental health issues.

JAN Resources on Mental Health: A toolkit developed by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) to support employers on accommodation resources available on mental health impairments.

University Resources

Boston University Repository of Employment & Vocational Recovery Resources: These online resources developed by the University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation provide targeted resources to support employers, potential and current workers, providers, and family members.

Family Guide to Employment: Resource titled “Let’s Talk Employment: A Family Guide to Employment”, published by Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, provides a narrative and 15 major topics of interest to explore related to employment.

WorkforceGPS Resources

Understanding PTSD – WorkforceGPS resource to help overcome misconceptions about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and to help promote promising partnering strategies with American Job Centers.

Mental Health Awareness Month 30 Second Training Series– Workforce GPS 30-Second Training on Mental Health is designed to increase awareness about mental health issues


Vehlow, Jon, 2019, May 6, Workplace Resources for Mental Health, Retrieved From:

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Funding Opportunity for New Center for Employer-Focused Disability Policy and Technical Assistance

A magnificent sunset at Golden Gardens Park, Seattle, Washington


WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of approximately $2 million in funds for the first year of a cooperative agreement for an employer-focused disability policy development and technical assistance center. The solicitation is a re-competition of an existing cooperative agreement. The deadline to apply is June 24, 2019. Administered by the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the funding opportunity anticipates the availability of approximately $8 million in funds for a 4-year budget period (subject to the availability of federal funds at $2 million per year). Seeking to build upon the prior work of ODEP’s Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), the new center will conduct research; engage with the business community; identify effective policies and practices that support business needs; and provide resources, technical assistance, and training to help public- and private-sector employers (including federal contractors) recruit, hire, retain, and advance individuals with disabilities. “America’s workforce is stronger when all Americans participate,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, Jennifer Sheehy. “Understanding effective policies and practices benefits employers as people with disabilities bring their skills and talents to the workplace.” The full announcement will be available at Visit ODEP’s website for more information. Direct link on Agency Office of Disability Employment Policy Date April 22, 2019. Release Number 19-0507-NAT Contact Bennett Gamble Phone Number (202) 693-4667 Email

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) is a resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified employees with disabilities. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy under a cooperative agreement with The Viscardi Center. For more information, visit Preparation of this material was funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, Grant No. [OD-26451-14-75-4-36]. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

7 Resources to Help Employers Address the Stickiest Workplace Mental Health Issues

© Craig Chanowski –

© Victoria Maxwell More info: or Originally published at

In a previous post, I described the O.A.R.S. framework (Observe, Ask + Actively Listen, Refer + Support).  A simple protocol outlining how to approach someone in the workplace who may be struggling with a mental health condition. The 4-step system along with the ‘do’s and don’ts’ helps make difficult conversations more comfortable and effective. For a copy of a handout click here.

Besides good communication strategies, employers and co-workers need resources – resources beyond your typical EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs). Mental illness, a multi-faceted issue, needs multi-faceted solutions.

These are some workplace resources I recommend. I’ve chosen not to list the well-known and well-respected Mental Health First Aid or the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s workplace webinars. Likely you’re already aware of them. If you’re not, please do check them out.

I’ve decided to highlight ones that may not be on your radar.

Please note: I am not affiliated with any of the following organizations or individuals. I know them as reputable resources offering services and information to effectively help employers and co-workers address difficult mental health issues.

Mind: A UK based non-profit providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.  Included is a free download about how to support staff experiencing mental health problems: 
Visit  to find other good resources

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free online resource that offers expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Unique to JAN is their Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) system and their A to Z listings by disability, topic, and limitation. The databases let users search for a specific disability (IE: anxiety disorder, ADHD) and then offers disability-specific accommodations, case studies and questions to consider.

Not Myself Today: A fee-based program developed by the Canadian Mental Health Association for employers to help create mentally healthy workplaces. It’s evidence-informed, with practical solutions, focused on building understanding, reducing stigma and fostering supportive work cultures. Visit for other programs.

Mary Ann Baynton & Associates: Mary Ann Baynton and her staff offer various services to improve or resolve workplace issues related to individual or organizational mental health issues. Well-respected across Canada and beyond, she has been a pioneer in workplace mental health consulting since 2008.

Deborah Connors offers training to develop psychologically healthy workplaces and transform culture.

Hayley Peek Consulting: In partnership with Kim Sunderland, Hayley Peek offers programs that teach people how to have a supportive conversation with someone who may be struggling with a mental health challenge or illness.

Provides various free resources such as tools, training, strategies, assessments for employers, staff, managers to improve workplace mental health.

What workplace mental health resources do you recommend? Send me your go-to websites or resources and I’ll list them in a future blog post with your suggestions.

Great Minds Conference Educates and Inspires

A view of Mount Rainier across the Puget Sound.

On November 7-8, 2018, Great Minds at Work hosted a Work Behavioral Health Supported Employment conference in Tacoma, WA. The event was a collaborative effort between the Health Care Authority- Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, University of Washington Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the SAMHSA BEST project.

The goal of the conference was to promote the Supported Employment Medicaid benefit and bring together a diverse group of presenters to share information about recovery supports, promising programs, and policies that advance best practices.  This conference was a huge success, with over 236 Attendees and topics covered included:

  • Customized employment (The untapped job market)
  • Job Development for individuals with justice involvement
  • Youth Career planning
  • How working effects benefits and work incentives
  • Peer role in employment and recovery
  • Job Seekers and Homelessness
  • Documenting medical necessity
  • Tribal VR and IPS (Tribal VR Grants) Culture-specific
  • Social determents of health
  • Opportunity for Choice (assessment, career explorations, and non-bias)
  • Staff recruitment, training, and retention tools

The conference provided a unique venue for the exchange of ideas and information across all sectors working with behavioral health conditions. Some of the ideas attendees explored included financing employment services, educating the workforce on placement and support services, expanding FCS services for Washington residents who have most immediate needs, cross-systems collaboration among employers, housing providers, workforce development and culture change to include employment as a recovery-orientated outcome.

Conference organizers designed the conference to educate and inspire system partners, agency leaders and staff, clinicians, employment specialists, peer counselors and individuals with lived behavioral health experience on the role employment plays in the recovery process and address how long-term unemployment contributes to poor physical and behavioral health outcomes.

Stay tuned for information about the 2019 conference.

Supported Employment Wraps Services around People & Employers and helps #EndtheStigma

Although most people (80%-90%) with serious psychiatric disabilities do not work, between 55%-75% indicate a desire to do so. The recognized vision of Recovery includes work as one important domain in which to develop a sense of purpose. Effective interventions that support recovery by facilitating the employment of people with significant psychiatric disabilities have been identified over the past two decades. The most globally researched model is Individual Placement and Support (IPS), which repeatedly demonstrated outcomes in the range of 50-60%.

Great Minds at Work, funded by the BEST grant, is committed to demonstrating to Washington employers the value, benefits and incentives of hiring people with treated mental health issues or substance abuse disorders. In addition, Great Minds helps educate Washington employers about the cost through lost productivity, absenteeism and turnover of untreated mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Research from OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) stresses the state of being unemployed itself is very detrimental to mental health. The OECD also states there is evidence that people with mental health challenges who find a job see significant improvements in their life.

Joe Marrone, Senior Program Manager, Public Policy, Institute for Community Inclusion, School of Global Inclusion and Social Development at UMASS BOSTON, believes that supported employment is crucial in helping individuals with behavioral health challenges.

“Long term unemployment is a major public health crisis, especially for citizens confronted by behavioral health problems. It is one of the most harmful conditions for people that can lead to psychiatric and other health problems, even when these conditions are not present before becoming unemployed. So, employment must be considered a major outcome for which a behavioral health system of care should be held accountable,” says Marrone.


The program includes two Medicaid benefits: supported employment and supportive housing services. The supported employment service is a benefit that wraps a web of support around an individual to help them find and keep jobs while supporting the employers who hire them.

There are many types of vocational programs for people with mental illness; however, people who participate in supported employment program also called Individual Placement and Support (IPS) are almost three times more likely to gain employment than those who engage in other types of vocational programs. IPS has been thoroughly researched and is a specific set of supported employment services that help more people with mental illness or substance use challenges obtain employment than any other type of vocational program.


Often a medical provider or a case worker will refer an individual to a supported employment (SE) provider. In Washington State, AmeriGroup administers supported employment services. Together, the SE provider and the individual work on developing a career path as well as identifying barriers to success and addressing those barriers with the intent of initiating the job search process as rapidly as possible.

“While there has been an enormous amount of evidence developed over more than 2 decades showing how helpers can effectively assist people with psychiatric disabilities achieve successful employment, some mental health systems of care have been slow to change,” says Marrone. “It’s impressive that Washington State DBHR/ HCA has embarked on a major funding initiative for employment through a Medicaid waiver authority.”

In some cases, through the analysis of the business’s needs they’ll work out a solution known as job carving. They’ll ask the employer, ‘Is there a way we could carve out some of the tasks that may be a better fit with the skills and talents of the individual being served.’ Job carving helps a potential employee add maximum value to the employer in a competitive environment.

All of the jobs pay minimum wage or higher.

Individuals with behavioral health challenges can be a value-add to any team. Supported employment is a resource for both the employee and the employer. It is the right thing to do for the individual, but it is also an opportunity to diversify the workforce with an untapped labor pool with skills, talents and abilities to contribute to organizations in need of additional workers — at the end of the day it is good for individuals, and it is good for business.

The good news is that this evidence-based approach helps people with behavioral health challenges find and keep jobs in their communities.

For more information about supported employment, visit

Supported Employment is a now a Medicaid Health Benefit in Washington State

Great Minds at Work focuses on educating employers and connecting them with resources to be able to successfully work with people who may have treated mental health issues or substance abuse disorders (together, behavioral health challenges). In support of the Becoming Employed Starts Today (BEST) Mental Health Transformation Grant, Great Minds at Work helps combat the stigma of mental health and substance abuse issues in the workplace.

In order for employers to successfully hire and retain workers, organizations that are licensed to help people with behavioral health challenges provide the expert support needed in these employment relationships. Traditionally, these organizations have been funded through a variety of sources, but are now being recognized as foundational services in the field of health care.

Foundational Community Supports (FCS) is Initiative 3 of Washington State’s 5 year Medicaid Transformation, and creates 2 new benefits that provide access to supportive housing and supported employment services for Medicaid populations with the greatest and most immediate needs. The Foundational Community Supports Program is overseen by the Health Care Authority and administered through a Third Party Administrator (TPA), Amerigroup.  Amerigroup is responsible for building a network of both traditional and social service providers who help eligible Medicaid recipients obtain and maintain housing and employment. This innovative project is focused on finding sustainable ways of transforming the healthcare system to save money and provide better health outcomes among the populations served. By integrating services that are not traditionally provided by the health care system, including supported housing and employment, the Health Care Authority hopes to create a system that truly addresses the health of its population rather than just medical symptoms.

The long-term goal is to have these services as a continued benefit that is incorporated into Washington’s general Medicaid program. That way, all Washingtonians who are eligible for Medicaid will have access to these benefits.

Employers who want to participate in supported employment relationships should connect with one of Amerigroup’s contracted providers. These providers can vary by location, and include Behavioral Health Organizations, long-term care agencies, social service agencies, and even counties. The full provider network list can be found in the Washington Foundational Community Supports Provider Directory.

How To Combat Anxiety In The Workplace

“World Mental Health Day brought light to the fact that mental illness is more common than we think. Over 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can cripple productivity, creativity and optimal performance especially when it comes to the workplace. Employers are even seeing a rise in health costs for their employees directly correlated to the treatment of mental illness, specifically anxiety.”
Continue reading here.