Workforce Solutions Jam: Bridging the Gap

Addressing Disparities in Mental Health Licensure Exam Success

We are experiencing an ongoing mental health workforce crisis in the U.S. Despite the acute need for more clinicians, we lose thousands of licensure-track therapists from the workforce every year due to candidates’ inability to pass licensure exams. And those outcomes are not evenly distributed by demographic — more than 30% fewer Black-identifying test-takers pass their licensure exams than their white-identifying counterparts. In this session, we will examine the disparities in licensure exam success and share recommendations for improving outcomes.  

Key highlights of the July jam include: 

  • Understanding licensure exam pass rate data, the problem it presents and test-makers’ response through recent test changes. 
  • Discussing recommendations for improving outcomes across all licensures and test-taker demographics. 
  • Learning about leadership development programs designed to improve workforce and leadership diversity. 

Melissa Blackwell, MSW

Melissa Blackwell has over 20 years of experience in the behavioral health field, initially starting her career as a case manager for adults with serious mental illnesses. Blackwell served in various roles with the Department of Juvenile Services, Psychotherapeutic Services, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Department of Health & Human Services. Blackwell dedicated 10 years of Federal service as a treatment specialist who ensured each client received a thorough assessment and treatment referral for their behavioral health needs. Melissa is currently a project officer for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, overseeing the Minority Fellowship Program and Historically Black Colleges and Universities grants. She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Morgan State University and Master of Social Work at University of Maryland, Baltimore. Melissa enjoys reading, hiking and creating memories with family and friends during her spare time.

Terence Fitzgerald, PhD, EdM, MSW

Terence Fitzgerald specializes in trauma-informed, resilience-oriented, equity-focused systems (TIROES), and was previously a clinical associate professor of social work at the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Peck-Dworak School of Social Work. Dr. Fitzgerald grew up in Champaign, Ill. He earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, master’s degrees in school social work and educational leadership and a doctorate in education policy studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As both a social worker and a race and gender scholar, for 12 years Dr. Fitzgerald worked through K-12th grade levels as a school social worker, and then later as a special education equity coordinator in racially and economically diverse settings in Central Illinois. He has worked with social justice grassroots organizations that focus on marginalized children and families, aligned for the purpose of meeting state and federal requirements, and helped organizations and corporations work toward meeting the needs of culturally and socially just organizations and environments. Professionally, he has utilized his program and curriculum evaluation talents to enable public schools in Illinois to make financial, efficient, ethical, racially just policy, program and curriculum changes. His expertise as a racial scholar is spotlighted in numerous international and national media outlets, peer-reviewed journals, and collaborative and independently published books, including “The Reality of Diversity, Gender and Skin Color: From Living Room to Classroom,” “White Prescriptions? The Dangerous Social Potential for Ritalin and other Psychotropic Drugs to Harm Black Males” and “Black Males and Racism: Improving the Schooling and Life Chances of African Americans.”

Ebony Chambers McClinton, Chief Family and Youth Partnership Officer, Stanford Sierra Youth and Families; Director of Equity-Grounded Leadership, The College for Behavioral Health Leadership

Ebony McClinton has over 18 years of experience working with issues of social justice, equity, education, mental health and diversity. She brings both professional and personal life experiences to her work and provides the oversight of advocacy and support to youth and families in the northern California region. She is a speaker, educator and workshop leader who has worked extensively throughout the United States and has served nationally and locally as an advocate and activist for access to care and the elimination of the stigma of mental illness for underserved and unserved communities. McClinton has provided extensive training in cultural competence and culturally responsive practices to schools, universities, and social service and mental health agencies through her work in nonprofit and for UC Davis Center for Family-Focused Practice. Through her classes and trainings, she covers a wide range of topics, including examining issues of privilege, power and the role of leaders and educators in a multicultural society.

Brandon Jones, CEO, Triad

Brandon Jones has been with Triad, a leading provider of education, community and career resources for behavioral and mental health students, professionals and organizations since 2019. Prior to Triad, he spent nearly two decades at Kaplan Test Prep. He started his career as an SAT instructor, and then advanced through a series of roles leading various field and home office functions, with the last several spent as the president of the largest business unit at Kaplan. Jones is passionate about the transformative power of education, and as an advocate of grit and growth mindset, he believes that just about anyone can do just about anything. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University, and lives in New York City with his wife and daughter. 

The Workforce Solutions Jam is a monthly webinar to build national momentum and encourage collaboration through the Center for Workforce Solutions, hosted as a partnership between the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, The College for Behavioral Health Leadership and Health Management Associates.