In July 2022, Willamette Workforce Partnership (WWP) received a $300,000, three-year HOWTO grant to address the behavioral health care workforce crisis: specifically, the need for providers, workforce reduction, high turnover, lack of diversity, and workers leaving the profession all together.

This grant funding enabled WWP to contract with Jeanine Stice, who holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health and has extensive experience in health care, to create and manage the Mid-Willamette Valley Behavioral Health Consortium (MWBHC). Jeanine has been working tirelessly to engage the region’s Coordinated Cared Organizations (CCOs), health departments, hospital systems and private practices that serve Oregon Health Plan clients. She also engaged workforce support entities such as community colleges, universities, school districts, and nonprofit organizations that support the

behavioral health workforce.

Jeanine’s first big goal was organizing the MWBHC launch and encouraging interested parties to attend. The February 1, 2023 launch was highly successful with thirty-eight participants in attendance representing twenty-seven organizations. The attendees participated in facilitated small group discussions where they identified opportunities and concerns that MWBHC should address using the NexGen employer engagement model. The following themes (in order of priority) emerged from these conversations:

1. Education/Careers/DEI

2. Staff Recruitment

3. Rules/Administrative Burden/Structure

4. Pay and Access.

During the process of theme identification, co-chairs and work teams emerged who will develop time-based goals to begin tackling each theme. Jeanine will follow up on their work, assist with gathering any needed data to make decisions, and send bi-weekly updates that support the needs of the consortium’s shared action plan.

The overall objectives of MWBHC include:

  • Expanding access to essential supports (e.g., reimbursement for employee training);
  • Examining causes for poor compensation and employee burnout;
  • Increasing training availability for the emerging workforce;
  • Exploring the possibility of investing WIOA funds to enhance access to existing and new training;
  • Understanding the systems that create disadvantages for BIPOC communities to enter the workforce and adjusting for more inclusivity.

According to Jeanine, “The MWBHC kick-off provided opportunities for professionals from different disciplines to make connections and hear each other’s opportunities and concerns. WWP provided an excellent opportunity to leverage this important work across the region to bring healthcare employers and workforce supports together. It was exciting to see participants stay after the meeting to continue their connections, and build

relationships necessary to improve the workforce.”

Participants shared this enthusiasm. At the end of the meeting, one participant said, “I’m really excited to be a part of this conversation and am optimistic that we can make real progress with this!” Another participant exclaimed “Great meeting today! I left feeling inspired and energized.”

Stay tuned for frequent updates as the MWBHC identifies and achieves its goals!

Do you know a behavioral health provider interested in learning more? Contact Jeanine Stice at [email protected] or 503-428-1882.