The Greater Bay Area Mental Health & Education Workforce Collaborative has evolved over the past ten years.
In the late 1990’s the California Mental Health Planning Council (the Planning Council) began studying current and future workforce needs throughout California’s public mental health system, recognizing significant shortages in the overall workforce. Among their findings:
- High vacancy rates exist in certain occupational classifications.
- There is a recognized lack of diversity in the workforce.
- There is a poor distribution of existing mental health workers (especially in rural areas).
- There is an under-representation of individuals with client and family member experience in the provision of services and supports.
- There are particularly severe shortages of mental health practitioners with skills to work effectively with such groups as children, older adults and diverse ethnic/cultural populations that are considered unserved or underserved.
Working with the California Department of Mental Health (DMH), the California Mental Health Directors Association (CMHDA) and other stakeholders, the Planning Council convened a Human Resources Summit in March 2000. Through a collaborative process, key decision-makers identified several strategy areas to address workforce shortages. The Mental Health Planning Council’s Human Resources Project was developed to implement the action plan resulting from the March 2000 summit.
Following the March 2000 Summit, the Institute for Mental Health and Wellness Education at California State University East Bay, appointed a committee on mental health education and workforce. The committee was interested in mental health internships for undergraduate students, supportive services for students with disabilities and articulation between high school and four year colleges. Shortly thereafter, Alameda County Behavioral Healthcare Services provided staff release time to help staff the committee and the potential development of projects. In order to broaden the geographic scope of the work and secure mental health support for the work, the committee approached the Mental Health Directors of the 13 Greater Bay Area Counties. The Committee then became a subcommittee of the Great Bay Area Mental Health Directors (which is a subgroup of the CMHDA), and the Greater Bay Area Mental Health & Education Workforce Collaborative was launched.
In its early years Alameda County made a commitment to the project offering in-kind resources including staff time and office space. All 13 Greater Bay Area county mental health departments contributed funds toward the hiring of a part-time consultant to facilitate meetings and begin developing strategies to address regional workforce development.
Under the initial fiscal sponsorship of the City of Berkeley Mental Health and then the California Institute for Mental Health (CiMH), the Collaborative successfully applied for and received funding from the Zellerbach Family Foundation in 2004. Support from Zellerbach has continued through 2009. The Collaborative has also received grant funding from the California Endowment. In 2006 the first full-time project manager was hired and a website was launched: http://www.mhewc.org/.
In November 2006, the Collaborative was recognized as the country’s leading innovative workforce practice in the area of consumers, family members, and adults by the Annapolis Coalition. In June 2007, the Collaborative played a leadership role in an Annapolis Coalition briefing on the National Action Plan for Behavioral Health Workforce Development, co-sponsored by CiMH and DMH for California’s workforce leaders.
Overall accomplishments and projects of the Collaborative include:
- Convening monthly educational meetings.
- Introducing and connecting individuals and organizations aligned with mental health services, education and workforce development.
- Supporting the integration of the California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies (CASRA) psychosocial rehabilitation curriculum into community college programs.
- Connecting the Life Academy of Health and Bioscience (Oakland public high school) with Merritt Community College faculty to offer accredited courses at the high school.
- Convening a Regional Community College Task Force to expand and strengthen Human Services programs and supported education for consumers
- Disseminating mental health and educational information from the local, regional and state levels to the Collaborative membership through meetings, events, email bulletins, conference calls and conferences.
- Participating in state policy making and advisory committees.
- Identifying resources to support the continued development and statewide use of a mental health website.
- Identifying opportunities to strengthen and initiate new collaborative efforts and joint projects among members.
Through its joint projects and regional initiatives, the Collaborative continues to expand its membership and scope. Today, it serves as the model for the development of Regional Partnerships throughout California. Regional Partnerships in other parts of the state have begun developing and are connecting public mental health providers, educational institutions, consumers and family members, and local and state agencies.