A pen on top of an employment application form

The Province and Fraser Health are partnering to test a new and innovative way for people living with severe mental illness to find long-term employment that fits their needs.

NEW WESTMINSTER – The Province and Fraser Health are partnering to test a new and innovative way for people living with severe mental illness to find long-term employment that fits their needs.

To make this happen, the Province is providing Fraser Health with $1.6 million to carry out a research project called Thinking Skills at Work. In partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, this three-year project will combine a new treatment with an existing service to help patients get back into the workforce. The project is based out of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) is a promising new treatment that enhances thinking skills in people with severe mental illnesses. It is designed to improve neurocognitive abilities such as attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning and functioning with a goal of improved functioning.

This funding will allow Fraser Health to assess the effects of CRT when it is combined with Individual Placement and Support (IPS), an existing service that adds an employment counsellor to a patient's mental health treatment team to help them find paid work. As part of this project, IPS employment counsellors will join local chambers of commerce and boards of trade to create community connections through job fairs and service clubs to find employment opportunities for patients.

The treatment plan for CRT will focus on cognitive areas that are impeding patients' progress to successful employment. For example, to improve memory, patients will be taught to group information to better retain it. Other examples may include using structured problem-solving and planning methods to compensate for executive dysfunctions, using day planners, and modifying work spaces to reduce distractions.

The combination of CRT with IPS will be tested with a group of 120 current patients from 10 Fraser Health Mental Health and Substance Use Centres. The patients live with severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Those patients will be randomly assigned to either a test group or a control group, with the test group receiving CRT and IPS and the control group receiving IPS only. This will allow Fraser Health to assess the effectiveness of CRT and IPS and find out if this new combination of support services can make a positive, lasting impact in the lives of clients, and help them reach their goals of independence through meaningful employment.

A final report on the effectiveness of CRT and IPS is expected to be complete by February 2020 and will be shared with government and other stakeholders. Results will be based on cognitive functioning and employment, including hours worked and wages and the information, will allow mental-health experts to better treat patients and help them find employment.

Funding for the project is provided through the Research and Innovation stream of the Ministry's Community and Employer Partnerships program.

Research and Innovation projects are part of the Employment Program of British Columbia's Community and Employer Partnerships, which fund projects that increase employability and share labour market information.

Community and Employer Partnerships are featured in B.C.'s Skills for Jobs Blueprint and provide more support to people who are struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. It helps build stronger partnerships with industry and labour to connect British Columbians with classroom and on-the-job training, while making it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers they need – when and where they need them.


Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation

"We are always working to find new and innovative ways to help British Columbians with unique needs reach their employment goals. This partnership with Fraser Health is doing just that. Thinking Skills at Work has the potential to be ground-breaking in the mental-health field and I am excited to see the results."

Andy Libbiter, executive director, Mental Health and Substance Use Services, Fraser Health

"While we are already doing good work to help our clients pursue employment opportunities through our Individual Placement and Support service, this generous funding gives us the opportunity to research a promising new approach that may help clients who would benefit from additional support."

Dr. David Erickson, clinical psychologist and Thinking Skills at Work project lead, Fraser Health

"We know that people with mental illnesses want to lead productive lives as members of the workforce whenever possible, and we are thrilled that the Province is enabling us to assess the effects of Cognitive Remediation Therapy. This funding will help people in our communities reintegrate into the workforce and find meaningful, purposeful employment."

Quick Facts

  • The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model is built around several key principles that have been shown to have the greatest impact on supporting people to find and keep work.

  • The first and foremost principle is that people can access IPS based on their interest in finding work, rather than on decisions made by others, such as counsellors, psychiatrists or family members.

  • The Individualized Placement and Support (IPS) strategy helps about 55% of clients find competitive jobs.

  • Fraser Health currently provides IPS services to approximately 350 clients per year in six communities; this project will boost that number to 500 per year in 10 communities.

  • Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) provides specific training exercises that target thinking skills known to be impaired in severe mental illnesses. For example, working memory and cognitive flexibility are trained through real-world exercises that teach clients to organize and manage time, focus their attention, and plan ahead. These skills are important to be successful in obtaining and maintaining employment.

  • Services in the Thinking Skills at Work project will be delivered in Burnaby, New Westminster, Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam), Maple Ridge, Surrey, Delta, Langley, Abbotsford, Mission, and Chilliwack.

  • In 2016-17, the ministry has committed to investing $327 million in employment and labour market programs under the Employment Program of BC.

  • The Employment Program of BC is funded by the Province of British Columbia as well as the Government of Canada through the Labour Market Development Agreement.

  • Funding supports 84 WorkBC Employment Services Centres throughout the province and the five components of the Community and Employer Partnerships fund:

    • Job Creation Partnerships

    • Labour Market Partnerships

    • Project-Based Labour Market Training

    • Research and Innovation

    • Social Innovation

Who is eligible for Community and Employer Partnerships funding?

  • Businesses

  • Non-profit organizations

  • Crown corporations

  • Municipalities, agencies or territorial governments

  • Bands/tribal councils

  • Public health and educational institutions

Learn more:

For more information on Community and Employer Partnerships: www.workbc.ca/CEP

Find a local WorkBC Employment Services Centre: www.workbccentres.ca

Learn more about the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation: www.gov.bc.ca/sdsi

For more information on B.C.'s Skills for Jobs Blueprint: www.workbc.ca/skills

To find out more about the BC Jobs Plan: www.engage.gov.bc.ca/bcjobsplan/

Media contact

For media inquiries, please contact:

Scott McKenzie
Media Relations
Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

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