Fellowship program bolsters workforce that serves people diagnosed with mental and substance use disorders

—by Paul M. Kubek

(Editor's note: This story first appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Insight & Action, a publication of the Office of Research & Training at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, page 17 | get free PDF |). ((BROKEN LINK))

Cleveland, OH—The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences—the school of social work at Case Western Reserve University—is partnering with the newly formed Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County to advance the knowledge, experience, and leadership capabilities of the mental-health and addiction-service workforces in Ohio's largest county of 1.28 million people.

The partnership is known as the "Consolidated Board Mental Health and Substance Abuse (MH/SA) Fellows Program." It is co-directed by Lenore A. Kola, Ph.D., associate professor of social work, and Gerald A. Strom, MSSA, senior instructor and director of the intensive-weekend study option. Both teach in the master's program. 


Kola explains that the title of the MH/SA Fellowship Program includes the terms "consolidated board" because the county recently combined a mental-health services board and an addiction-services board to form one entity. By doing this, the county joined a growing national effort to integrate public systems that serve people diagnosed with mental illness and/or substance use disorders.

Kola explains that national studies have shown that over 60 percent of adults in the United States diagnosed with severe mental illnesses experience an addiction to alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs at some point in their lives. In addition, many people diagnosed with a substance use disorder also experience a mental disorder. In other words, the existence of co-morbidity requires integrated services to treat both disorders simultaneously.
The Fellows will study in the intensive-weekend study option, which enables them to maintain full-time employment at their agencies and to study one weekend per month at the Mandel School in Cleveland.

In a career spanning over 35 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. She was part of the leadership team assembled by the Ohio Department of Mental Health that brought a block grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to Ohio in 2000 to begin a statewide implementation of Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT), the evidence-based practice.

Several state authorities, many county boards, and numerous service organizations throughout the State continue to receive technical assistance for IDDT implementation through the Mandel School's Center for Evidence-Based Practices, which Kola co-directs with Robert Ronis, M.D., MPH, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine.

"We have learned in our work that the most effective clinical changes in the one-on-one interactions between consumers and practitioners occur when there is simultaneous organizational change and systems change to support the innovations," Kola says. "There must also be a willingness by practitioners to learn and adopt new models of treatment."
She adds that the new combined board in Cuyahoga County is evidence of systems change and that the Board is supporting this Fellows Program, because it recognizes the need to prepare the current generation of practitioners to become the next generation of leaders who will carry-on and advance the work of improving outcomes for people with mental and substance use disorders.


Through the MH/SA Fellows Program, the Mandel School is partnering with the ADAMHS Board and publically-funded mental health and substance abuse agencies in Cuyahoga County to recruit 10 full-time professionals to its master's program. The Fellows will study in the intensive-weekend study option, which enables them to maintain full-time employment at their agencies and to study one weekend per month at the Mandel School in Cleveland.
Tuition will be shared by all the partners in the Fellows Program. The Mandel School will contribute one-quarter of the cost; the Fellows will contribute one-half of the cost; and the ADAMHS Board and the agency where the student is employed will contribute a combined one-quarter of the cost.


According to MH/SA Fellows Program Co-Director Gerald Strom, the professionals recruited to the Fellows Program are individuals who demonstrate a long-term commitment to their professions. 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 independent social worker, which will enable him or her to work with more independence and provide supervision to staff members," Strom says. "It's a form of mentorship, a way of passing on the lessons-learned through practice. It helps the next generation avoid previous pitfalls and provide consumers with a continuity of the best possible care."


The MH/SA Fellowship Program is built upon the Mandel School's Abilities-Based Learning Environment (ABLE), which identifies eight abilities necessary for competent practice at the master's level. Each Fellow is expected to attain, maintain, and advance into positions of increased responsibility in the social work profession over time. Other components of the Fellowship Program also include the following:

  • A field placement at the Fellow's current agency in a role that is different than his or her everyday responsibilities
  • A field faculty advisor to provide supervision
  • Seminars featuring speakers from mental-health and addiction-services systems
  • Professional and personal leadership development activities
  • Required course in social work interventions for mental and substance use disorders 

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 the Department of Psychiatry at the Case School of Medicine.