The VA’s IPS program aimed to move veterans experiencing homelessness and mental health or substance use disorders into competitive employment rapidly as part of an integrated treatment approach. This evaluation directly compared IPS to a separate intervention, TWE followed by CE, in order to better understand which of the two interventions might be more effective; the distinctive features of IPS are the integration of mental and physical health treatment into a rapid job search and placement process.
As part of the VA’s IPS program, an employment specialist worked with a larger team of clinicians and support staff to integrate mental and physical health treatment into the employment services of veterans experiencing homelessness. The employment specialist assessed participants’ vocational abilities and helped tailor an accelerated job search based on their strengths and preferences. Employment specialists also cultivated relationships with local employers, developed leads on competitive employment opportunities, and helped participants access other services such as job training and health care available through the VA. As of 2020, the VA continues to offer similar services to eligible participants. The target population for IPS included veterans experiencing homelessness who met all of the following criteria: (1) they were not receiving VA health services, (2) they expressed a desire to participate in competitive employment, and (3) they were diagnosed with a psychiatric disability or substance use disorder. IPS was implemented in nine VA medical centers across the United States.
The effectiveness of the VA’s IPS program when compared to TWE followed by CE indicates the effect of the services that are unique to IPS, or how much better IPS meets participants’ needs than TWE followed by CE. IPS addressed participants’ mental and physical health issues while facilitating a rapid job-search process and job placement. In contrast, participants in TWE followed by CE first received structured vocational rehabilitation services and therapeutic work placements without integrated health services, and then obtained competitive employment, during which they could receive standard VA services.