Clinical assistant professor Jodi Flick retired in August following a career spanning 40 years in social work, including service to the state of North Carolina and UNC-Chapel Hill.
Faculty, staff and colleagues gathered virtually on Sept. 8 to honor Flick, who many described as an exemplary social worker with a legacy of helping the most vulnerable citizens of the state, especially those with mental health needs. Over the last five years alone, Flick has trained more than 3,000 faculty, students and staff across UNC’s campus in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), helping to educate participants in the risk factors and warning signs of mental health and substance abuse issues.
“Every waking moment of Jodi’s life is devoted to doing good and making this world a better place,” praised Tara Bohley, director of the School of Social Work’s Behavioral Health Springboard, which oversees the MHFA program.
Over the years, these efforts have also included the creation of a Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group for the Chapel Hill and Durham region. The group, which Flick organized in 2007, is facilitated by a volunteer team of social workers, many of whom have also lost someone to suicide. The support group continues today as a safe space for family members to share their pain and connect with others who have had similar loss.
Flick’s resume is further testament to her extensive service to the social work field, Bohley noted. Over the course of her practice career, Flick has worked as a psychiatric technician, psychiatric social worker, mental health counselor, medical social worker, rehabilitation social worker, director of social work, clinical social worker and crisis counselor.
“She’s worked in about every setting a social worker can work in – nursing homes, hospitals, outpatient clinics, and social services agencies,” Bohley said. “But I think the piece that just resonates with me is that this woman has actively saved lives. I don’t know where else we can find someone with the depth of caring and compassion, ethics and standards that you have.”
Flick joined UNC-Chapel Hill in 1995, as a clinical social worker for the Department of Psychiatry Crisis Emergency Services. In this role, she served as a crisis counselor with the Chapel Hill Police Department Crisis Unit. For 20 years, Flick spent evenings and weekends, riding along with law enforcement officers responding to mental health crises in the state. In addition to helping to de-escalate situations of domestic violence, sexual assault and psychiatric emergencies, she offered counseling to residents who had experienced house fires, deaths in the family and other medical or psychiatric issues.
At UNC School of Social Work, Flick spent 18 years training North Carolina’s child welfare workers in every county of the state. Traveling from Murphy to Manteo for the Family and Children’s Resource Program (FCRP), she and her colleagues trained thousands of new and experienced county social workers in nearly all aspects of their jobs. Moreover, Flick created and developed countless online and classroom curricula and training manuals on a wide range of topics, including child sexual abuse, child mental health issues; responding to families and communities impacted by methamphetamine use; support for military service members and families and helping students cope with depression and suicide.
“I’m just thinking about the thousands of child welfare workers you’ve taught through FCRP,” said Lane Cooke, retired FCRP program coordinator. “You were an amazing pioneer at developing online curricula. You developed our first online course in 2004, and nobody else was developing online courses at that time. But you made it successful and you made it work.”
Flick’s work with Mental Health First Aid training has been especially pivotal in helping the public better understand mental illness and addiction and to embrace practical skills to help those in need, many colleagues praised. The mental health course focuses on the common risk factors and warning signs of anxiety, depression, substance use, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia. The training has proven so popular that some participants have cited the course for assisting them personally or for helping them provide crucial support to a loved one.
Over the years, Flick’s service and educational efforts have earned her numerous awards, including special recognition in 2018, when the National Council for Behavioral Health named her a “Top Mental Health First Aid Instructor,” and one of the Top 100 MHFA Instructors of All Time.
Such recognition exemplifies Flick’s commitment to the profession and to her colleagues, added Laura Phipps, FCRP program coordinator.
“You have always wanted to push things to be better,” Phipps said. “I’m so thankful that you pushed the boundaries of online learning and that you challenged us over the years to think outside the box. I so value your guidance and mentoring.”