Forum on Behavioral Health Workforce Development

Workforce Development Forum
This forum was held on Wednesday, December 9, 2020. Materials and presentations will remain available via this site. 

The behavioral health workforce is facing an unprecedented crisis due to projected shortages in the supply of mental health providers with the requisite knowledge and skills to respond to the increased demand for culturally competent mental health care across the nation.

The inadequate supply of behavioral health practitioners contributes to significant disparities and inequities in access to, and utilization of, mental health services among many vulnerable and marginalized groups, including children and adolescents, ethnic/racial and sexual minority groups, individuals with disabilities, older adults, people with substance use disorders, and individuals who reside in rural communities.

The scope of the problem is multifaceted, encompassing systemic challenges in the recruitment, training, mentoring, and retention of a culturally and linguistically diverse behavioral health workforce; the absence of career ladder opportunities for individuals from underserved communities; inadequate compensation and marginal wages and benefits; and the financial burden of obtaining advanced degrees in the field.

This Forum continues a series that convenes educators, researchers, providers, policymakers, funders, and other key stakeholders to address the behavioral health workforce shortage. Presenters, at this event, will highlight the urgent need to invest in educational and training programs to equip providers with the skills to address unmet needs; discuss best practices for creating career ladder opportunities and pipeline programs for individuals who are underrepresented in the field; and propose strategic steps for strengthening the behavioral health workforce capacity, improving service delivery for unserved and underserved communities, and building and sustaining a diversified behavioral health workforce.


9:00 – 9:10 a.m. – Welcoming Remarks

  • Nicholas Covino, PsyD, President, William James College
  • Christopher J. Bersani, PsyD, Deputy Regional Administrator, Health Resources & Services Administration
  • Audrey Shelto, MS, President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass. Foundation
  • Gemima St. Louis, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Workforce Initiatives & Specialty Training, William James College

9:10 – 10:00 a.m. – Keynote Address: Developing a Resilient Behavioral Health Workforce

  • Angela BeckPhD, MPH, Clinical Assistant Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education; Associate Dean for Student Engagement and Practice, University of Michigan School of Public Health

10:00 – 11:00 a.m. – Panel Presentation: Successful Career Ladder Models in Behavioral Health Organizations

  • Parinda Khatri, PhD, Director of Clinical Services, Cherokee Health Systems
  • Maria Madison, ScD, Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
  • Karen Shack, MEd, Senior Program Manager, Commonwealth Corporation

11:00 a.m. – Break

11:10 – 11:50 a.m. – Panel Presentation: The Behavioral Health Service Corps℠ (BHSC) at William James College

  • Marc Abelard, MEd, Director, Behavioral Health Service Corps℠
  • Jenny D’Olympia, PsyD, Asst. Chair, Counseling & Behavioral Health Dept.
  • Fatema AbdooEva McDermott, and Evelyn Monks, BHSC Scholars

11:50 – 12:50 p.m. – Breakout Sessions

Panel #1: Community-Based Organizations

  • Andy Pond, MSW, MAT, President and CEO, Justice Resource Institute
  • Jennifer Reed, Senior Human Resources Generalist, Walker, Inc.

Panel #2: Funders, Policymakers & Other Key Stakeholders

  • Nicholas Covino, PsyD, President, William James College
  • Audrey Shelto, MS, President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass. Foundation

12:50 – 1:00 p.m. – Closing Remarks

  • Gemima St. Louis, PhD, Associate Vice President for Workforce Initiatives & Specialty Training, William James College