Collaboration with Cuyahoga County bolsters workforce that serves people diagnosed with mental and substance use disorders

—by Paul M. Kubek

The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences has been partnering with the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County for the past four years to advance the knowledge, experience, and leadership capabilities of the mental-health and addiction-service workforce in Ohio's largest county of 1.28 million people.
The partnership is known as the "Consolidated Board Mental Health and Substance Abuse Fellows Program." It is co-directed by Lenore A. Kola, PhD, associate professor of social work at the Mandel School and co-director of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve, and by Gerald A. Strom, MSSA, senior instructor and director of the School's intensive weekend study option. Both teach in the master's program.

There are currently eight students in the program, all of whom study in the intensive-weekend study option, which enables them to maintain full-time employment at their agencies and to attend one weekend per month at the Mandel School. Tuition is shared by all participants in the Fellows program. The Mandel School contributes one-quarter of the cost; the fellows contribute one-half of the cost; and the ADAMHS Board and the agency where the student is employed contribute a combined one-quarter of the cost. Thus far, four students have graduated from the Fellowship Program.


Kola explains that the title of the Fellowship Program includes the terms "consolidated board" because the county combined a mental-health-services board and an addiction-services board a few years ago. The county joined a growing national effort to integrate public systems that serve people diagnosed with mental illness and substance use disorders. In a career spanning over 36 years, Kola has developed and implemented over 10 different training programs for master's students and professionals alike, programs funded by federal, state, and county authorities, as well as by charitable foundations.

According to Co-Director Gerald Strom, the individuals recruited to study at the Mandel School must demonstrate a long-term commitment to their profession. They agree to remain working at their organizations for the three years they are enrolled in the master's program and for three additional years following graduation. Each student will earn a master's degree and be eligible to become a licensed chemical-dependency counselor and a licensed independent social worker.


Each Fellow is expected to attain, maintain, and advance into positions of increased responsibility in the social work profession over time. Other components include the following:

  • A field placement at the Fellow's current agency in a role that is different from his or her everyday responsibilities
  • A field faculty advisor to provide supervision
  • Four yearly seminars that feature professionals in the community who are directors of mental-health and addiction-services agencies or boards, as well as Mandel School faculty who present their research.
  • Professional and personal leadership development activities

Required course in social work interventions for mental and substance use disorders
This past year, the Fellows Program also added a seminar series at the ADAMHS Board for board staff and agency professionals. 

Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University, a partnership between the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and Department of Psychiatry at the Case School of Medicine.