SUPPORTED EDUCATION SERVICES
Supported education provides supports for individuals with mental health disabilities to take advantage of skill, career, education and interpersonal development opportunities within a normalizing academic environment.
Supported Education Programs are community partnerships made up of mental health consumers, their network of supporters, agencies, providers and colleges and universities with the intention of pooling resources to maximize educational opportunities and employment outcomes for persons with psychiatric disabilities. Supported Education programs modify existing educational environments by making them more receptive and supportive to students with psychiatric disabilities. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) of the federal government has recognized supported education as an exemplary practice. That means it is a practice that has a body of research that documents its positive outcomes and offers program models.
The term “supported education” is based on the definition of supported employment as defined by The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986. Supported Education is described as “education in integrated settings for people with severe psychiatric disabilities for whom post-secondary education has not traditionally occurred or for people for whom post-secondary education has been interrupted or intermittent as a result of severe psychiatric disability, and who, because of their handicap, need ongoing support services to be successful in the educational environment.”
What is Supported Education?
Supported Education has the potential to:
- Provide access to a normalizing learning environment within which individuals with psychiatric disabilities can experience a wide range of people and social situations.
- Provide access to the cultural and recreational resources available in educational settings.
- Provide opportunities to strengthen basic competencies necessary to succeed in school and competitive employment.
- Provide opportunities to explore individual interests relating to career development and vocational choice.
- Provide opportunities to earn degrees, certificates, or vocational training that will lead to employment and careers.
Why is it Important?
Mental illness often begins when young adults are completing high school and moving on to college. The onset of the illness creates a developmental lag and slows the career trajectory to which most young adults aspire. Supported education was developed to avoid or remediate this problem. It is a way to catch up, so career goals can be met, and fulfilling and appropriate work that provides a living wage can be found. Supported education provides a system that encourages youth and young adults to continue their developmental path without interruption.
Although colleges and universities provide accommodations and academic counseling to all students, they usually do not recognize the level of support many students with mental health challenges need to successfully complete their education goals, realize successful employment, and enter career opportunities that promote independence and recovery.
National research indicates that supported education students report a significantly greater level of satisfaction with their quality of life than other students with mental health care needs who did not receive support. They report higher levels of contentment with their living situation, finances, daily activities, social relations and personal contacts than those who are not going to school. Reportedly, people who are enrolled in a supported education program have had decreased incidence of hospitalization and more than half of them are employed.
Three challenge areas remain in the realization of a successful Supported Education program. These include:
- Access: Effectively linking consumers of mental health services to educational programs within the school, college, or university of their choice.
- Retention: Services for students that support their needs so they can complete their educational program.
- Outcomes: Helping students to meet their professional and vocational goals with meaningful and productive employment opportunities.
What Can it Do?
Many people with mental illness are asking for Supported Education services. As they have previously learned about the benefits of job coaches and preparatory classes that are available to assist them in returning to work, consumers of mental health services returning to school recognize the benefit of Supported Education and an environment that responds with support to their individual and unique needs. Supported Education is a concept grounded in disability education philosophy that promotes the rights of every individual, regardless disability, to access publicly funded education. By law, students with a verifiable disability must be given accommodations. An accommodation is a “modification to academic requirements as necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate against students with disabilities, or have the effect of excluding students solely on the basis of the disability.” Through modifications in the typical secondary education system, consumers of mental health services have an increased chance to succeed. With Supported Education, these modifications are over and above existing educational supports, services and accommodations for students with disabilities.
Supported education may include:
- Outreach and Recruitment
- Special orientations
- Specialized transitional classes
- Identified counselors and instructors familiar with psychiatric disabilities
- Educational coaching
- Liaison and service coordination between the college and mental health and rehabilitation providers
- Special crisis intervention procedures
- Peer counseling
- Support groups
- Clubs and social activities
- Award ceremonies
- Newsletters and communications
- Note takers in the classroom
- Changes in timelines for assignments
- Incomplete rather than failing grades if the student needs a medical leave or withdrawal
- Arrangements to leave and return to class during a class period
- Registration assistance
- Assistance in applying for financial aid
- Academic counseling that includes choosing classes that meet the individual academic goals with consideration of mental health needs
- Assistance in managing time and deadlines
- Assistance in developing strategies for problem solving
- Assistance in applying for forgiveness of previous loans because of disability status
- Assistance with managing disclosure issues
- Assistance in identifying learning disabilities
- Advocacy with faculty for accommodations
Need help guiding our Supported Education services?
Those interested in learning more about our Supported Education services should contact our program supervisor.