Efficacy of the customized employment supports(CES) model of vocational rehabilitation for unemployed methadone patients: Preliminary results

Authors: Strickland, D., Coles, C., & Southern, L.
Year Published 2004
Publication Substance Use and Misuse
Volume 39
Number 13
Pages 2261-2285
Publisher Informa Healthcare

Methadone-maintained patients experience great difficulty with gaining and maintaining competitive employment due to personal barriers and limited vocational services. Federal and state policy reforms require substance users to obtain work or risk losing public benefits. Innovative vocational rehabilitation models need to be tested in order to improve employment outcomes for patients enrolled in addiction treatment programs.


The purpose of the study was to evaluate a Customized Employment Supports (CES) model designed to improve employment outcomes for unemployed methadone-maintained patients.


The study was implemented at two sites in Manhattan. One is a free-standing methadone clinic operated by Greenwich House, a nonprofit social services agency. The other methadone clinic is operated by Harlem Hospital but is located separately from the hospital.


The study eligibility criteria for methadone patients included the following: unemployed or remarkably underemployed; stabilized on an appropriate methadone dose; negative urine toxicologies for both opiates and cocaine for last 4 tests; absence of any condition that would preclude working (e.g., serious mental illness, developmental disability, severe physical health problem, or time-intensive dependent care responsibilities) and willingness to participate and be randomly assigned to either the innovative vocational program or the clinic‚ existing vocational counseling program. The participants included at total of 135 patients: 79 at Greenwich House's methadone clinic and 56 at the Harlem Hospital's methadone clinic. Participants were randomly assigned to either the customized employment supports vocational model or the clinic's standard vocational program. The final sample included 55 in the experimental group and 66 in the control or a total of 121 patients. Some of the key characteristics of the overall sample at baseline included the following: male (58%); minority group (68%); mean age 44 years (s.d.¬º8.8 years); high school graduate/GED (65%); no paid job within last 6 months (60%); unemployed at study entry (100%); ever arrested (81%); rates own overall health as excellent, very good, or good (62%), but reports having trouble standing for long periods (67%), climbing stairs (73%) and lifting a medium weight (90%); received prior treatment for substance misuse (67%) and mental health problems (53%); has attended some form of 12-step program (79%); and has received public assistance benefits in the past year (82%).

Data Collection

The study collected data on patient employment and behaviors from the following sources: baseline interviews of patients prior to before random assignment; patient follow-up interviews at 6, 12, and 18 months later using the same procedure as the baseline but adding measures about the intervention; review of vocational activities log kept by both CES and standard counselors as well as employment documentation. The employment measures drew on and integrated information from these sources since no single source was completed using the combined ordinal outcome measure, the initial analysis was a cross-tabulation of the highest level of vocational activity attained by study condition using the combined ordinal outcome measure. Next, cross-tabulations were conducted between experimental condition and four separate indices of vocational outcomes. Pearson chi square provided the tests of statistical significance across the board. Since the hypotheses involving vocational outcomes were directional predictions (i.e., better outcomes were predicted for the experimental group), single-tailed significance tests were reported. Four dichotomous measures of vocational activities, which constitute the outcome measures for this analysis, were obtained at baseline and at 6-month follow-up: 1. Whether the patient attained any paid job in the previous 6 months. 2. Whether the patient attained a competitive job in the previous 6 months. 3. Whether the patient attained an informal job in the previous 6 months. 4. Whether the patient participated in any other socially constructive, vocationally relevant activity in the previous 6 months. The three basic vocational measures (i.e., competitive, informal, constructive activity) were not significantly associated with each other (p>0.05). To provide a single overall index of vocational outcomes, they were combined into a four-level, ordinal measure of highest level of vocational attainment: 1. Attained a competitive job (highest). 2. Attained an informal job. 3. Performed constructive activity other than paid employment. 4. None of the above (lowest).


The participants were randomized into intervention and control groups.


Consistent with the study‚ main hypothesis, the experimental group achieved significantly higher levels of vocational activities than the comparison group during the 6-month follow-up. Each of the four measures of vocational outcomes was also evaluated individually. Compared with the standard vocational services group, patients in the CES program were significantly more likely to have obtained any form of paid employment, competitive employment, and informal employment. However, the two groups did not differ significantly on engaging in constructive vocational activities other than paid work.


The preliminary results supported the hypothesis for two indices of paid employment, i.e., the CES group was more likely to obtain both competitive employment and informal paid employment. More research is needed.

URL http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/JA-200034618?journalCode=isum20
Populations Male & Female | Other
Outcomes Employment acquisition | Return to work
Research Design Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs)
Peer Reviewed Yes