The Community Mental Health Pipeline Problem

Mar 14, 2023

As our CEO Julie Bluhm shared last year, Guild and other community-based mental health nonprofits are experiencing a burgeoning employment crisis. Staff members are leaving the field for myriad reasons including compensation and the emotional toll of the work. There are a number of solutions, some of which we’re focused on this legislative session. But we can’t wait around for policy change—we must act, and we must work together with our partner organizations to ensure sustainability for the long haul. 

Enter: The Real Time Talent Mental Health Collaborative

We know the workforce problem is complex, and as such, it requires creative solutions. We’re committed to collaborating with other organizations to develop an education-to-workforce pipeline that will benefit all of us and the individuals we support.

Since the summer of 2022, we have been working with partner organizations including CentraCare, M Health Fairview, Fraser, Children’s Minnesota, and Touchstone Mental Health in a collaborative effort to do just that. Led by Real Time Talent, we are pursuing workforce engagement strategies and a Talent Pipeline Management approach that uses data-driven strategies and evidence-based models to help close the skills gap and increase the number of workers entering our field. 

Since kicking off the project, we’ve unearthed a number of critical facts, such as the ever-expanding gap in the workers we need vs. people entering the field of human services. But we’ve also come up with a number of solutions that will help, much of which starts with us and our recruitment, retention, and engagement strategies. These include but are not limited to:

  • Addressing employer brand and culture, putting the value of our people at the center
  • Encouraging organization-wide culture change that starts at the top
  • Ensuring all people feel welcome at the organization
  • Using the power of storytelling to share employee experiences
  • Developing pathways for employees to listen and share, and enable action based on feedback
  • Connecting employees to more formal leadership development programs
  • Working collaboratively with similarly-situated employers  

There is much work to be done, and this work with our partner organizations is just one of many ways Guild is working to address the pipeline problem and ensure our staff is properly compensated for the critical work they do in our communities. As Julie shared in her LinkedIn piece last year,

When 20-year-old me proudly, passionately announced my intention to pursue social work, I was greeted with eye rolls as my uncle told me I should be prepared to, ‘live on welfare to help others get off welfare.’ Not exactly encouraging. That didn’t turn out to be true for me, but I am faced every day with how true that is for the staff we depend on to meet our mission of providing critical mental health care and affordable, supportive housing to our community.”

It’s incumbent upon us all to ensure the viability of our structures and services now and into the future. If we can’t recruit enough staff, the people we serve pay the price. The need for mental health and housing services is only increasing—and our community members are counting on us to figure it out, together.