Philadelphia Connections

This is our story.

Philadelphia Connections was created in 1999 as a solution to workforce concerns voiced by behavioral health leaders, the City of Philadelphia and family advocacy groups.

A collaborative meeting was created to bring representatives of schools, providers, relevant city governmental agencies, family advocacy groups, and service recipients together to discuss the concerns and questions around how clinicians working in the public behavioral health system are educated and trained. Some of these concerns included:

From this meeting, an agreement was reached. There was a need to promote collaborative efforts among behavioral health providers, universities, and governmental agencies. These parties have a shared goal. Universities hope to prepare a well-educated workforce, provider agencies seek to employ a well-educated workforce, and governmental agencies need a well-educated workforce to insure that the highest quality services are provided.

The Early Years

Looking to start with manageable pilot programs, these representatives chose to focus on master’s level social work students, as social work has, and currently represents the largest number of professional staff within behavioral health agencies. After eliciting extended feedback from universities and providers, Connections concentrated on promoting cooperative ventures with graduate social work programs from three schools of social work, and four provider agencies that served as placement sites for fieldwork students. In 2003, The Philadelphia Connections Enhanced Placement (EP) Program was officially created.

In 2001, Connections added the profession of psychiatry to its areas of concentration, again soliciting extended feedback from psychiatry residency programs and other stakeholders. This work continues with the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Leadership Council (PPLC), an organization dedicated to the recruitment, retention, and support of community psychiatrists across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Advocacy for the behavioral health workers, and the projects stemming from the PPLC, look to benefit not just psychiatrists, but clinical, peer, and direct care workforce as well.

The Present

Since its inception, Philadelphia Connections has grown and evolved to address the workforce needs of an ever changing behavioral health system. Today, the EP program works with approximately 100 students per year, and has educated over 1200 students to date. Currently, Philadelphia Connections works with over 25 universities and colleges, and have expanded to include the acceptance of 4th year bachelors level social worker students, graduate level counseling students and psychology students, and other graduate students who are working within clinical behavioral health settings.

With an eye towards the future, Philadelphia connections believes that interdisciplinary education is crucial in how services are delivered in a modern health care system. Through regular EP advisory meetings, universities, EP alumni, The Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disability Services (DBHIDS) representatives, professional organizations and other interested parties, gather to talk about the needs of students, and emerging trends within the behavioral health workforce.