Supported Empoyment

Supported Employment Staff Earns Recognition

Supported employment has changed a lot over the years. Both Lori Norton and Margaret Lopresto can attest to that.

Both have been involved in the field for a long time – Norton since 1992, and Lopresto since 1996. Both have also recently been recognized for their achievements in the field. Lopresto received the Excellence in IPS Training Award, and Norton earned the Rick Martinez Leadership Award.

Both are involved with the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) project at HDI, which is an evidence-based practice that helps people with serious mental illnesses and/or substance use find and keep the types of jobs of their choosing.

Lopresto is an IPS State Trainer and Norton is HDI’s IPS Project Director.

Lopresto’s award celebrates an IPS trainer who demonstrates skill and dedication in training the IPS community to strive for the best, and Norton’s celebrates an IPS leader who has increased access and built infrastructure for the community.

Lopresto said that in recent times, she had been working a lot to put new IPS sites on the map and expand existing ones, including a site that provides supported employment to youth and young adults – one of the first programs in the state to provide services to that demographic.

“Without this program, a lot of individuals would not have that opportunity. I’m very passionate about that,” Lopresto said. “It’s also good for communities. The people who are involved in our program want to work, and this program helps them do that.”

Norton, meanwhile, was quick to credit her team for making the recognition possible. That echoes the changes she’s seen over the many years in which she’s worked in IPS.

“I used to be an employment specialist and I felt so alone out there,” she said. “IPS has a real road map for services…But when I started in supported employment, there was no road map for services. We were just doing what we could.”

Now, things are different, and both Norton and Lopresto are playing a part in making sure that new IPS specialists don’t face the same challenges. And both are committed to the work.

For Lopresto, a job isn’t just a job, it’s part of who you are. And everyone should have the chance to pursue these opportunities.

“Even in this new world of Covidland, it’s still the first question people ask. What do you do?” Lopresto said. “To have employment, and not just employment, but a career, is so valuable to everybody. Individuals who do have a disability should have that resource available to them so they can have that success.”

Norton agreed, stressing that she’s seen firsthand how supported employment can

“To me, work is so much more than just a job. It really gives people hope,” she said. “One of the quotes from someone who received services from IPS said it saved her life. That was really powerful to me.”

The IPS is also pleased to share that fellow Kentuckian and colleague, Sharon Darnell, received the IPS Family Advocate Award. Learn more about IPS at

This article represents the opinions of the author and interviewee, not that of the University of Kentucky. 

Kentucky Awarded Office of Disability Employment Policy VOICE Technical Assistance Grant

Kentucky has been awarded a Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE) Technical Assistance Grant by the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Kentucky will work with ODEP’s contractor, Econsys, on the grant. Kentucky will use these funds to develop strategies to increase the capacity of the provider community to support transformation from a center-based activity system to a community-based effort with an Employment First focus. This effort will emphasize both the traditional day and employment services provided through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Medicaid as well as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment program, which serves people with behavioral health diagnoses and substance use issues. IPS supported employment was introduced in Kentucky in 2010 and currently has 19 IPS programs serving 76 counties. The latest information available shows that 3,264 Kentuckians are on the IPS caseloads with 1,070 people actively working in the community.

The Kentucky VOICE Leadership Team includes representatives from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Division of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, Workforce Investment Board, Department of Education, University of Kentucky Human Development Institute, and Medicaid.

Learn more about an array of projects, initiatives, and partnerships that are aligned to improve employment outcomes for Kentuckians with disabilities at

Project Contact: Lori Norton ( or Jeff White (


Woman with blonde hair standing on lawn

50th Anniversary Spotlight on Lori Norton

There are gonna be tough days but never forget why you are here, what HDI stands for, and never give up when it comes to making a difference in people’s lives!
Lori Norton, Project Director/IPS SE Trainer

How did you come to know HDI?
Working and collaborating with staff (great people) at HDI.
How long have you been at HDI and what is your role?
I started with HDI in 2007 with the Community Work Transition Program.  Since 2010,  I have been an  an IPS Supported Employment Trainer, and then moved in the Project Director/IPS SE Trainer role.
During your time at HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud?
Implementing a new project in KY, IPS Supported Employment, it really looks at how work is a part of a person’s recovery. Eligibility is based on client choice regardless of past work history, hospitalizations, justice involvement, any job readiness factors. When someone says they want to work, we move forward. I love that it is a strengths based approach, focuses on what people can do, and honors people’s preferences. What I am most proud of is that people are being referred to IPS and not excluded due to job readiness factors. I’ve seen many lives change from going to work!! Work is so much more than just a job! My motto is: A label does not define me or who I am meant to be!!!
What do you think the future holds for HDI?
HDI has a rich history of making real change for people and for systems. I believe HDI will be on the forefront of leading the way to continue to promote the inclusion, independence and contributions of people with disabilities!
What does HDI mean to you?
I believe in and love everything that HDI stands for to promote the inclusion, independence, and contributions of people with disabilities. This is not just a job to me, this is my purpose. I am thankful to be a part of such a great organization that gives me an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives every day!!