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Investing in a Professional, Caring, and Mission-driven Workforce


 By Staff Writer Odyssey House

The behavioral health care workforce is one of the fastest growing in the country. Projections for 2020, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, forecast a significant rise in employment for substance abuse and mental health counselors with a 36% increase from 2010-2020 – greater than the 11% projected for all occupations.

This increase, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Workforce Issues Report of 2013, is based on an expected increase in insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse services brought about by passage of health reform and parity legislation; the rising rate of military veterans seeking behavioral health services; and the growing opioid epidemic.

SAMHSA’s prediction both confirms the value of our talented workforce and presents challenges for under-resourced social services to meet the increased demand.

As behavioral health care providers, we are confronted with a range of expectations: ensuring our services meet the needs of diverse populations with a complex set of problems; satisfying increased demands for demonstrated outcomes; and doing more with shrinking resources.

Helping us rise to these challenges at Odyssey House is our professional and dedicated workforce. This broad staff of 350 employees include licensed counselors, social workers, doctors, nurses, and dentists, wellness and recreational coordinators, facility and housing managers, educators, administrative, communications and financial managers, maintenance, nutrition, security and transportation coordinators. All of these staff perform essential roles that keep our clients moving forward in their journey towards health and recovery.

While the roles our staff fulfill each day are quite different, the expectations are the same across the organization: that clients come first; policies and procedures are strictly adhered to; and our resources are tightly managed to be cost-effective and outcome driven. Accomplishing these tasks in a challenging human services environment where clients require intensive care for a myriad of emotional, mental, and physical health deficits, demands practice and training.

Investing in Training

Training is an integral part of ongoing performance management at Odyssey House. We encourage our clinical and administrative staff to take advantage of inhouse training opportunities and offer tuition reimbursement towards the cost of professional accreditations and courses. In 2015, our employees earned 35 professional awards ranging from Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) and Certified Addiction Recovery Coach, to Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in social work and accounting.

The Odyssey House training department offers a range of professional development options that support direct service and management staff in both progressing their careers and delivering the highest quality care to our clients. Workplace trainings are adaptive to our service environment, track trends and study client profiles, monitor client management systems, and review incidents, chart audits, and quality assurance activities. Training is delivered by experienced licensed staff including medical doctors, clinical social workers, mental health counselors, and certified rehabilitation recreation counselors.

In 2015, clinical staff participated in one or more training sessions that included both group workshops and online individual courses that focused on motivational interviewing, opioid overdose prevention, level of care placement, diagnosis using DSM-5 criteria, ethics and boundaries, safety and crisis management for mental health workers, and cultural diversity and competency.

And we also offered administrative trainings including clinical recordkeeping, documenting medical necessity, fire safety, workplace safety, electronic health record keeping, incident reporting, HIPAA and other confidentiality rules, and basic writing skills.

Focused and Flexible Online Training

We recently enhanced our capabilities with the addition of flexible web-based training. This online system, offered by Relias Learning Management Systems (RMS), further allows staff to refresh their skills and stay up-to-date with regulatory changes ushered in by the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008. Topics covered include general administrative management requirements like corporate compliance and ethics, fire safety, HIPAA overview, sexual harassment/discrimination prevention, hazardous chemicals, infection control, quality improvement, blood-borne pathogens, and first aid refresher.

We are also utilizing RMS to deliver a range of clinical management trainings including: Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for individuals with substance use issues, domestic and intimate partner violence, overview of clinical supervision, best practices in substance use treatment engagement, structured group therapy approaches, co-occurring disorders, and HIV/AIDS.

Odyssey House is committed to developing and maintaining a professional behavioral health care workforce. The clinically focused in-service trainings we offer can be used towards CASAC continuing education credits and many are also approved for New York State Social Work continuing education hours.

By making training a priority, our staff can work in confidence, assured they have the resources and skills they need to succeed in a demanding and rewarding workplace. 

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