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2nd Annual Legacy Speakers Series to focus on transforming behavioral health care

Community leaders, advocates and practitioners will join UNC School of Social Work faculty and doctoral students on April 3 to discuss solutions to the crisis of care in the behavioral healthcare system for the 2nd Annual Social Work Legacy Speakers Series. This title for this year’s series: Advancing Equity and Transforming Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Systems through Social Work Advocacy, Research, and Workforce Development.

Professor Michelle Munson with New York University Silver School of Social Work will deliver the event’s keynote address “Social Work and Mental Health: Can We Learn from the Past to Inform Our Future?” Munson’s research focuses on psychosocial interventions and services for youth and young adults living with serious mental health conditions and their loved ones. Previously, Munson worked in children’s mental health and positive youth development. Munson’s presentation is free and open to the public and will be hosted in the auditorium of the School’s Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. Registration to attend in person or to participate via zoom is required. 

The day-long event will also involve panel discussions around issues such as behavioral health workforce development; policy practice and advocacy to transform North Carolina’s behavioral health system; advancing equity in substance use disorder treatment and recovery; and meeting the behavioral health needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals. Panel speakers will include North Carolina State Senator Sydney Batch, National Association of Social Workers-NC Executive Director Valerie Arendt; N.C. Addictions Specialist Professional PracticeBoard Chair Flo Stein; Disability Rights N.C. attorneys Joonu Coste and Lisa Nesbitt; and Center for Child and Family Health Psychologist Felicia Gibson. 

In addition, Clinical Associate Professor Laurie Selz Campbell will present on social work’s legacy in behavioral health. Campbell has worked for many years with adults living with mental illness and was part of a team that implemented one of the first structured mental health peer support programs in North Carolina. She teaches courses in social justice, social welfare, disability, the life course and mental health recovery, among others. 

This year’s theme was selected largely due to the behavioral health pandemic facing our country. Currently, many individuals and families experiencing mental health and substance use challenges must interact with a system that has failed them due to inadequate and fragmented care. However, social workers — who are the largest provider of behavioral health services — are uniquely positioned to reflect on how this system came to be and what it will take to overcome the challenges and gaps that still exist. At the same time, social workers can play a part in fostering system transformation toward high-quality, community-engaged and equitable care. Addressing the challenges and gaps in our current behavioral healthcare system will ensure that all individuals realize their own unique path to wellness.

In bringing together social work scholars, community leaders, advocates and practitioners for the day-long event, participants will have the opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for a future that includes a behavioral healthcare system that works for everyone.