University seeking proposals for BWHET conference

The window to submit a proposal for presentation at the upcoming Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Conference hosted by the Waynesburg University graduate counseling program is currently open.  The conference will be held near Pittsburgh, Pa in April of next year. The program is looking for proposals about “advocacy in action” within the field of behavioral health, specifically in regards to youth, substance abuse and underserved and marginalized areas. The deadline to submit a proposal is January 2022.

The conference is being held as part of the BWHET grant that the Waynesburg University graduate counseling program received from the Health Resources Administration last year. 

Kelley McNichols, assistant professor of counseling and coordinator of the grant, said that the conference will explore advocacy in the behavioral health workforce. 

“We titled it ‘Rewriting the Narrative: Advocacy in the Behavioral Health Workforce’ with the focus being towards counseling, counselor educators, and really helping people become advocates in the field,” she said.

According to Dr. James Hepburn, director of the counseling program, there are a couple of different directions one could take. He said that proposals could be research-oriented or about “clinical innovations or programmatic innovations that they have done that they would like to share with the community.”

A third option would be a discussion-based format.

“We could provide opportunities for them to discuss their ideas, the struggles and challenges they are facing and some solutions they might have,” Dr. Hepburn said.

McNichols said that there is not a cap on the maximum number of proposals that the conference organizers can accept.

“We are looking to have a full-day conference,” she said. “We’re leaving this pretty open at this point, and we’ll see how many calls for proposals that we get and then what we are able to accommodate.”

According to the conference’s webpage on the Waynesburg University website, there are a few requirements to present at the conference. Presenters must have the necessary skills and education to discuss the material, and they also “must have qualifications in good standing with their academic program or professional regulatory board.” 

According to a press release, mental health professionals such as “licensed professional counselors, counselor educators, clinical supervisors, community stakeholders, human resources professionals, and other members of the behavioral health workforce” are asked to apply.

Students enrolled in a Masters or Ph. D. counseling program will also be allowed to participate, Dr. Hepburn said. 

“They’ll be able to collaborate with faculty members and community leaders but also present their own ideas and their own research regarding how to increase services to underserved communities,” he said. “I think that it will be a great opportunity for our students.”

McNichols said that students who are a part of the BWHET program would be able to participate in a unique way, such as offering “a session on their experience of being a part of the BWHET people, so we want people to share their thoughts and experiences to be able to collaborate and gain a lot of new information.”

According to a Waynesburg University press release, the BHWET program “emphasizes relationships with community-based partners to increase access to quality behavioral health services, for populations across the lifespan, in high need, high demand, and medically underserved areas.”

McNichols said that the conference will occur annually for the next four years as part of the BWHET grant program, but she said she hopes the program will continue beyond the four year time frame. In addition to the conferences, there are other educational opportunities offered as part of the BWHET program.

“We provide interpersonal educational workshops, and we are doing four this year that have individuals coming in from the field offering unique training and educational opportunities specific to the BWHET program,” she said.