The Boulder County Employment Alliance

The Recovery Trust launched a collaborative vocational rehabilitation program in Boulder County, Colorado, on April 1, 2014, as a pilot for replication around Colorado and elsewhere.

The Boulder County Employment Alliance

Under this program an employment specialist is working with the Boulder Independent Business Association (BIBA) and the Boulder County Farmers' Markets to locate local farms and other businesses that are willing to add a special mission to their work -- namely, to provide employment to people with psychiatric disabilities. The work opportunities can be unpaid internships or paid employment.

Collaborating businesses are being branded and honored publicly for their community service.

The employment outreach specialist is coordinating this effort with the vocational staff from the Boulder County mental health agencies that provide support and training to the employees, namely:

The vocational workers from these agencies provide support to the employer and the newly placed employees. On-site job coaching is also provided, when needed, to ensure the success of the placement.

Job seekers referred to this program have all experienced some kind of serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or severe depression with psychotic features. Across the nation, the rate of employment for people in this target group is very low, in the range of 10-20%. The research shows that, with the kinds of support being provided by this project, 40-60% can be productively employed in the competitive marketplace.

How will this project benefit employers?

Employers will enjoy:

Employers will be recognized locally for their involvement in the Employment Alliance through branding and news coverage. Employing people with disabilities will also enhance their capacity to become certified as B-corporations.

A B-corporation or benefit corporation is a for-profit business that considers society and the environment in addition to profit in their decision-making process. The Employment Project is working with B-lab Colorado to assist Boulder County employers become certified B-corporations.

Businesses enrolled in the Alliance

These Boulder County businesses have enrolled in the Employment Alliance with a commitment to employ appropriate job candidates with psychiatric disabilities. More are joining the Alliance every week.

Evaluating success

How will we know if the project is a success? We're keeping track of the number of businesses that enroll in the Employee Alliance and how many of them employ someone with a disability. We're tracking the number of disabled people who become employed, their work hours and the duration of their employment.

We will also survey employers, employees and vocational staff from the three collaborating agencies about their views on the successes and weaknesses of the program.

We expect to find that employers will enjoy the sense of contributing even more to their community and that the quality of life of those who gain employment through the project will improve in every domain. Work is fundamental to our capacity to find meaning in life.



Across the nation, the rate of employment for people with serious mental illness is very low, in the range of 10-20%. The research shows that, with the kinds of support being provided by this project, 40-60% can be productively employed in the competitive marketplace.

Employment staff:

The Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) is a state agency that provides partial funding for vocational services. They may also provide supplemental support to the job seeker for further training, transportation, clothing, or tool needs. DVR can offer financial incentives to employers for employing people with disabilities.