Workforce Development and the Organization of Work: The Science We Need
The industrialization of health care, underway for several decades, offers instructive guidance and models for speeding access of children and families to clinically and cost effective preventive, treatment, and palliative interventions. This industrialization-i.e., the systematized production of goods or services in large-scale enterprises-has the potential to increase the value and effects of care for consumers, providers, and payers (Hayes and Gregg in Integrated behavioral healthcare: Positioning mental health practice with medical/surgical practice. Academic Press, San Diego, 2001), and to generate efficiencies in care delivery, in part because workforce responsibilities become more functional and differentiated such that individuals with diverse educational and professional backgrounds can effectively execute substantive clinical roles (Rees in Clin Exp Dermatol, 33, 39-393, 2008). To date, however, the models suggested by this industrialization have not been applied to children's mental health services. A combination of policy, regulatory, fiscal, systemic, and organizational changes will be needed to fully penetrate the mental health and substance abuse service sectors. In addition, problems with the availability, preparation, functioning, and status of the mental health workforce decried for over a decade will need to be addressed if consumers and payers are to gain access to effective interventions irrespective of geographic location, ethnic background, or financial status. This paper suggests that critical knowledge gaps exist regarding (a) the knowledge, skills, and competencies of a workforce prepared to deliver effective interventions; (b) the efficient and effective organization of work; and (c) the development and replication of effective workforce training and support strategies to sustain effective services. Three sets of questions are identified for which evidence-based answers are needed. Suggestions are provided to inform the development of a scientific agenda to answer these questions.