University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Psychiatry
Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy

National Research and Training Center (NRTC)

Project Updates

/Training and Education

IDA Party

The IDA project celebrated one year of successful savings in December 2007.
Savers, project staff, and a representative from the Chicago Major's Office for People with Disabilities attended a ceremony honoring everyone's efforts. Thus far, the group has saved over $7,000 for goals such as post-secondary education, purchase of a condominium, or starting a small business.

Asset Accumulation Through Individual Development Accounts

The purpose of this project is to assist people with mental illnesses in accumulating financial assets for school, employment, or housing goals that promote their economic independence. Assets are developed through special savings accounts called Individual Development Accounts. These accounts are geared to the needs of low income individuals who are working and able to save limited amounts of money. Few IDA programs have been targeted to individuals with disabilities, and this project is the first designed to reach adults with psychiatric disabilities.

IDAs are unique because individuals' savings are matched by financial contributions from local and governmental sources. Under the federal IDA program, an individual's savings are matched first by a non-federal source (such as a bank or philanthropic foundation), and second by the federal government using a specific matching formula. The amount of federal funds that may be allocated to an individual's account is $2000 per IDA, while there is no limit on the local match. Individuals' contributions to IDAs must come from earned income and must be used to help finance the purchase of a first home, small business capitalization, or post-secondary education. Participants also receive financial education and counseling. Under the federal program, savings accumulated in an IDA are not counted as assets when assessing SSI or SSDI eligibility and cash payments, thus removing this disincentive to asset accumulation faced by people receiving public disability income. As of 2003, 34 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico had passed IDA legislation, with over 500 IDA initiatives and 10,000 IDA savers nationwide.

This project is being implemented at Thresholds ( a psychiatric rehabilitation center serving 5,000 adults through its comprehensive program of supported education, supported employment, housing, and wellness services. The Asset Builders Community Development Corporation ( is coordinating access to the banking institution and the federal match for this project. The Rebecca Susan Buffett Foundation ( is providing the local match.

With support from this project, working clients at Thresholds receive financial education and counseling, assistance with establishing an IDA, and ongoing support while saving money for 1 to 3 years. Project evaluation will track participants' asset accumulation and the project's impact on their financial self-sufficiency, along with the likely sustainability of the program at Thresholds after federal funding has ended.

New Curriculum: Financial Education for Persons in Recovery

This financial education curriculum is designed to be implemented in 6, two-hour sessions that are highly interactive and hands-on. Topics were selected based on the findings of our study of financial planning needs of people in recovery and include: identifying values and financial goals; tracking and managing income vs. expenses; managing debt; understanding credit; using financial institutions; and building savvy consumer skills. Lessons involve hands-on budgeting, small group activities, and homework. This class meets requirements for financial training of those who wish to start Individual Development Accounts. Order a copy of this curriculum by downloading our publication list. The curriculum is located in the "Employment" section.

Download presentation: "Effectively Managing Your Illness & Finances" [PDF 476K]

Download a Financial Education Curriculum for People in Mental Health Recovery

The UIC CMHSRP is part of the ongoing Education and Research efforts of the UIC Department of Psychiatry

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