Great Lakes Skills Experience

Workforce Development: Ohio Learning Collaborative Participants Test Strategies for Recruitment and Retention

Publication Date: Dec 04, 2019

Recruiting and retaining a qualified and committed workforce remains a persistent challenge for the behavioral health field. In Ohio, 10 behavioral health provider organizations are applying innovative strategies to address that challenge. 

Michael Hoge
Dr. Michael Hoge*          

The 10 organizations participated in the eight-month Ohio Workforce Recruitment and Retention Learning Collaborative,  launched in April 2019 by the Great Lakes Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) with sponsorship from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Dr. Michael Hoge of the Annapolis Coalition on the Behavioral Health Workforce developed and delivered the learning collaborative curriculum.  

 “Many of the managers participating in the Ohio collaborative have had long careers in the behavioral health field,” says Hoge. “The majority described a recruitment and retention crisis in both the mental health and substance use sectors that is of a magnitude previously unseen.” 

Hoge cites multiple factors as contributing to the current situation. These include expanded benefits for behavioral health services through state and federal healthcare reforms and an expansion of behavioral healthcare services in hospitals and large healthcare systems.

 “These larger systems are attracting behavioral health professionals with higher wage scales and stronger benefit packages than those offered in most behavioral health community non-profits,” explains Hoge. “In addition, a national unemployment rate that is the lowest it has been in 30 years has led to more workers leaving behavioral health to pursue careers in other sectors of the labor market.”  

The free learning collaborative began with a one-day face-to-face meeting, followed by a series of teleconference calls occurring bimonthly. Participating organizations learned about more than 30 recruitment and retention strategies that ranged from improving the new hire onboarding experience to implementing a system for employee recognition. 

Participants were highly engaged in the learning collaborative, with 100% of the agencies completing the learning collaborative process. 

Hoge notes that the agencies are continuing to test recruitment and retention strategies, and will take steps to ensure that they sustain their successful changes. “Each agency was asked to develop a sustainability plan that identifies the steps they will take to make continued improvements in their recruitment and retention efforts.” 

The success of the first Ohio collaborative has sparked interest from other entities in the state. A second collaborative was launched in November and a third will start next February.   

For more information about the Ohio Behavioral Health Workforce Recruitment and Retention Learning Collaborative, please contact:
Alfredo Cerrato at the Great Lakes MHTTC: or
Michael Hoge at the Annapolis Coalition:

*Photo Credit: Yale School of Medicine