Social costs of expanding access to evidence-based supported employment: concepts and interpretive review of evidence

Psychiatr Serv. 2013 Feb 1;64(2):111-9. doi: 10.1176/


A recent policy analysis argued that expanding access to evidence-based supported employment can provide savings in major components of social costs. This article extends the scope of this policy analysis by placing the argument within a recently developed economic framework for social cost-effectiveness analysis that defines a program's social cost impact as its effect on net consumption of all goods and services. A total of 27 studies over the past two decades are reviewed to synthesize evidence of the social cost impacts of expanding access to the individual placement and support model of supported employment (IPS-SE). Most studies have focused primarily on agency costs of providing IPS-SE services, cost offsets when clients shift from "traditional" rehabilitation to IPS-SE, and impacts on clients' earnings. Because costs and cost offsets are similar in magnitude, incremental costs of expanding services to persons who would otherwise receive traditional services are probably small or even negative. The population served by an expansion could be sizable, but the feasibility of a policy targeting IPS-SE expansion in this way has yet to be demonstrated. IPS-SE has positive impacts on competitive job earnings, but these may not fully translate into social cost offsets. Additional empirical support is needed for the argument that large-scale expansion would yield substantial mental health treatment cost offsets. Other gaps in evidence of policy impacts include take-up rate estimates, cost impact estimates from longer-term studies (exceeding two years), and longer-term studies of whether IPS-SE prevents younger clients from becoming recipients of Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost Savings / economics
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Employment, Supported / economics*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / economics
  • Health Policy / economics*
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Income / trends
  • Mental Disorders / economics
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Social Security / economics
  • United States