Immediately following the Behavioral Health Workforce Summit, Washington County Thrives (“Thrives”) committed to harnessing its collaborative power in response to the behavioral health crisis in Washington County. As a long-standing collaborative of nonprofit, business, government, healthcare, education, and faith-based leaders, Thrives has a broad stakeholder group that has a vested interest in behavioral health and intersecting issues, and its quarterly meetings provide an ideal forum for disseminating information and gathering feedback.
In the summer of 2022, with the support of Thrives, VAN began guiding collaborative efforts on the first phase of the Behavioral Health Initiative. An initial investment from the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation helped kick-start the work, along with contributions from Worksystems, Inc. and commitments from behavioral health providers LifeWorks NW, New Narrative Integrative Mental Health, and Sequoia Mental Health Services.
As reflected in the Summit, all three behavioral health provider partners identified workforce development as the most critical issue, with residential support staff (RSS) as the most urgent workforce need. Workforce shortages like these have major ramifications for our community.
Within the space of a few months, one of Washington County’s largest mental health and addiction services providers, Lifeworks NW, was forced to close two residential facilities. “The impact on the community is huge,” said Julie Ibrahim, CEO of New Narrative, “If we have to close these houses, these residents have to go somewhere, and often it’s shelters, motels, and unfortunately sometimes the street.”
To address this pressing need, the initiative established a short-term goal to develop a universal RSS job description, recruitment strategy, and training plan that can be used by all three providers. This work began in Fall 2022.
Meanwhile, in the interest of broadening the stakeholder base of the BHI and raising awareness, VAN also set to work planning behavioral health workforce events, researched and compiled contacts for workforce pipelines, and conducted outreach to the education, faith, nonprofit, and government sectors.
Also in Fall 2022, VAN partnered with Adelante Mujeres and Raíces de Bienestar on a successful grant proposal to expand Latinx behavioral health services in Washington County.
The cohort was awarded a Future Ready Oregon Workforce Ready Grant to help Adelante and RdB build their capacity to provide culturally and linguistically-specific behavioral health services for the Latino/a/e/x communities in Washington County and rural areas in the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon. VAN will provide support through external communications, research, project management, and convenings.
“With this grant, VAN can continue to support and elevate the vital work of culturally-specific organizations. It’s part of a broader effort to strengthen the behavioral health sector for the benefit of Washington County residents and beyond,” said Glenn Montgomery, VAN’s Executive Director.