The Menu Approach to supported employment for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness: Outcomes in an Oregon community based program

Authors: Salyers, M. P., Becker, D. R., Drake, R. E.,Torrey, W. C., & Wyzik, P. F.
Year Published 2009
Publication Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation
Volume 31
Number 1
Pages 45-51
Publisher IOS Press

The employment rate for individuals with severe mental illness is poor. This is despite the fact that they have expressed an interest in work. The supported employment model developed to serve people with developmental disabilities has been adapted to serve this group. One approach is the Individual Placement and Support model of supported employment. Another one is the Menu Approach. The Individual Placement and Support approach has been thoroughly investigated and has been deemed effective. The Menu Approach has not.


The goal of this study was to evaluate outcomes of a Menu approach to assist individuals with Mental Illness with gaining and maintaining employment.


The setting was a variety of employment sites located in the Pacific Northwest where individuals with mental illness worked.


The sample was taken from individuals with severe mental illness who were served by the program from 2000 to 2006. This resulted in a total of 140 people that met the study criteria.

Data Collection

Abacus program records were reviewed to identify individuals served during the established time frame. Then rates of successful employment and trends were identified. To ensure confidentiality each participant was randomly assigned a number during data analysis. General demographics was collect from records. Records were reviewed by the primary investigator and a graduate student. Other data collected from the file review related to employment outcomes and whether or not ongoing support was accessed. Reliability was checked using cross referencing and strengthened by having the student randomly code one fourth of the data which was compared to the primary investigators coding. Coded data was entered into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 15.0. The package calculated statistics that were used to develop and describe program employment outcomes.


There was no control condition. There was a pre/post comparison only.


Among the 140 participants there were 83 reports of successful employment. The majority of those who went to work or 82% received ongoing support services. The mean number of weeks to obtain employment was 13.9. Job search services varied from behind the scenes help to job development. Most positions were entry level. The average number of months employed was nine. The most frequently reported reason for not going to work was client choice (40.4%); followed by physical medical issues (17.5%).


The Menu Approach lead to positive employment outcomes. Additional research is needed to determine if these outcomes were exclusive to the Abacus program or can be replicated.

Disabilities Emotional disturbance
Populations Male & Female
Outcomes Other
Research Design Observational
Peer Reviewed Yes