Changing the system by changing the workforce: employing consumers to increase access, cultural diversity, and engagement

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; *Caregivers; Community Mental Health Services; *Cultural Diversity; Delivery of Health Care, Integrated; Health Manpower; *Health Services Accessibility; Humans; Massachusetts; Models, Theoretical; Organizational Case Studies; Organizational Innovation; Quality Assurance, Health Care; *Role


Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry and Psychology


Services to families have traditionally been delivered in a medical model. This presents challenges including workforce shortages, lack of cultural diversity, lack of training in strength-based work, and difficulty in successfully engaging and retaining families in the therapy process. The system of care (SOC) effort has worked to establish formal roles for caregivers in SOC to improve services. This paper provides an example of one community's efforts to change the SOC by expanding the roles available to caregivers in creating systems change. It describes the model developed by Communities of Care (CoC), a SOC in Central Massachusetts, and its evolution over a 10 year period. First person accounts by system partners, caregivers hired into professional roles as well as a family receiving services, demonstrate how hiring caregivers at all levels can change systems and change lives, not only for those being served but for the caregiver/professionals doing the work. It also demonstrates, however, that change at the system level is incremental, takes time, and can be fleeting unless an ongoing effort is made to support and sustain those changes.

DOI of Published Version



Am J Community Psychol. 2012 Jun;49(3-4):546-55. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

American journal of community psychology

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed