Promoting Economic Empowerment among Minority Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities in New York State


About Promoting Economic Empowerment among Minority Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities in New York State Project

Poverty has a devastating effect on the ability of individuals with psychiatric diagnoses to achieve their employment, rehabilitation, and recovery goals.

In many cases, poverty limits their ability to work more than the psychiatric diagnosis itself. Beneficiaries of social security (e.g., SSI, SSDI) are often stuck in the “poverty trap” without sufficient income or assets to live and yet feeling unable to work, increase earnings or accumulate assets due to the means-testing requirements of those programs.

Racial or ethnic minorities, already at a higher risk of income and asset poverty, are likely to experience even greater economic barriers to achieving their employment and recovery goals.

Economic empowerment interventions, such as those aimed at building assets, have shown to enhance the economic security of individuals and may help improve the employment and recovery outcomes of people with psychiatric disabilities.

This project will pilot and explore the feasibility and acceptability of an economic empowerment intervention to improve the employment and recovery outcomes of minority individuals with psychiatric disabilities in New York State.

The feasibility and acceptability of three economic empowerment strategies will be assessed:

  1. An economic empowerment workshop to develop participants’ readiness to pursue economic self-sufficiency, assist participants to identify their personal economic integration goals, and improve their financial literacy (knowledge, attitudes and skills).
  2. Peer-facilitated support and mentoring to assist participants to develop an economic empowerment plan. This component may be essential since prior interventions and research suggest that mentoring and support, in addition to financial education, are essential in helping individuals achieve personal financial goals. Peer support, in particular, has been vital in facilitating a greater sense of self-efficacy among people with psychiatric disabilities.
  3. Building connections to economic integration supports: This will include linking participants to community-based financial and economic integration supports, such as:
    1.  Bank accounts (savings, checking)
    2. Expert financial counseling to address credit or debt issues
    3. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites (free tax preparation assistance) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
    4. PASS (Plans to Achieve Self-Support) that protect SSI recipients’ savings from means-testing
    5. Individual Development Accounts (IDAs, or matched-savings programs to support post-secondary education, small-businesses or home ownership).

In addition, this strategy will assist participants to strengthen and diversify their informal connections (e.g., informal connections to access employment and economic opportunities), that is, the social capital essential for economic inclusion.

Project Phases

  1. Exploratory phase: In this phase the project will conduct focus groups with providers (vocational and peer providers), consumer interviews, and community mapping to better understand the feasibility and acceptability of the economic empowerment intervention strategies.
  2. Pilot: In this phase the project will pilot the intervention in a selected number of program settings in New York State.
  3. Refining intervention strategies: This phase will include disseminating the lessons of the project pilot and refining the intervention strategies.

To see an alphabetical list of all the projects being conducted at our Center, please click here:  Research projects at the CECC.