Crowd of people

County and City of Cleveland Announce Youth Mental Health Workforce Development Sprint Task Force

Tuesday, Aug 15, 2023

Leaders in Mental Health Community to Develop Strategies for Tackling Shortage of Providers  

Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, and Ohio Means Jobs | Cleveland-Cuyahoga County (OMJCC) announced today the creation of a task force focused on increasing access to mental health care for youth and young adults.

The purpose of the Youth Mental Health Workforce Development Sprint Task Force is to bring together stakeholders and leaders in the mental health community who will help tackle the workforce shortage of mental health providers across a variety of care settings.

Leaders will participate in facilitated sessions over the next 180 days (through mid-February) that will further develop recommendations for gaps and opportunities to grow the number of professionals serving young people. The task force’s charge is based on a proposed national strategy framework developed by Laura Conrad, Senior Consultant at the Technical Assistance Collaborative, whose piece entitled “A Call for a National Strategy to Strengthen the Youth Behavioral Health Workforce” was published on Commonwealth Fund’s To the Point blog.  

The localized set of strategies, which will be presented in the form of a report, will focus on:

  1. Equitable pay for behavioral health providers
  2. Loan forgiveness
  3. Professional capacity building
  4. Interstate licensure simplification
  5. Diversity and equity
  6. Integrated behavioral healthcare

Also included in the task force’s report will be a summary of work underway and progress made; recommendations for action, specific to workforce interventions and including potential state and federal funding sources; and an advocacy agenda for presentation to state and federal policymakers that will support the workforce interventions and public policy changes that would result in better access to care.  

“The number of young people diagnosed with behavioral health problems continues to grow, yet the mental health workforce specializing in treating young people has shrunk. This leaves some of our most vulnerable children and their families without comprehensive resources for tackling mental health, and providers stretched thin in an already mentally demanding field,” said County Executive Chris Ronayne. “Many local organizations are doing great work in this space. Now is the time to bring everyone together to create a coordinated approach to tackling this crisis. I look forward to reading the sprint task force’s report and taking action.”

In January 2023, City leaders convened a number of public and private youth and adult mental health providers, funders and advocates for a conversation on mental health workforce development. The conversation indicated that much work is underway in the community, while also making it clear that there is a need to coordinate and scale further to address critical gaps and barriers.

“During United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s visit to Cleveland in April 2023, we heard from many of these care providers, as well as directly from young people in our city, that care must be more accessible, particularly as we continue to grapple with the social and emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “This sprint task force’s report will allow us to act with urgency to support our young people, which in turn impacts our schools and educators, and the overall health of our city.”

The sprint task force concept has been developed in partnership with leaders from the Cleveland Department of Public Health and Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services, as well as the City’s Chiefs for Education and Youth and Family Success, and will be coordinated by Michelle Rose, OMJCC Executive Director.

“I look forward to a collaborative effort with the experts and leaders who can give us a roadmap for localized, sector-specific workforce interventions and strategies,” said Rose. “This task force will renew and clarify our mutual obligation to students and families."