Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Philadelphia Connections

Name of Innovative Program: 
Philadelphia Connections and the Enhanced Placement Program
Sponsoring Organization
Philadelphia Connections
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Max Molinaro, Ph.D.
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
Philadelphia Connections was created in 1999 by representatives of city government, colleges and universities whose programs placed students in city-funded provider programs, behavioral health (BH) provider agencies, and family advocacy groups interested in seeing academia, the city, and providers working together to promote and utilize graduate students as a vital part of the city’s present and future BH workforce.  The city-funded organization Philadelphia Connections was established, and Connections’ first project was the Enhanced Placement (EP) Program.  The EP program provides a small stipend in return for attendance at a free seminar series on a variety of topics relevant to the public BH services population.  An end-of-semester career panel presentation and job fair, free seminar series concerning clinical supervision for students’ supervisors, and an EP Alumni program of on-going free seminars is included.  The EP program will graduate its one thousandth student this year and includes numerous schools and providers.
Creativity and Innovation: 
Prior to the creation of Connections, there was no organization in the Philadelphia area that focused on: the quality of placement/internship experiences; collaboration among providers, city government, and academia in enhancing students’ placement/internship experiences; and collaboration between the three groups in coordinating resources to improve the area’s BH workforce in a systematic way.  In an effort that appears to be unusual within the country, Connections addressed all of these areas.  Unique or unusual in this system were efforts such as:
  • Utilizing an objective system of pre, post, and follow-up tests to assess whether students left seminars with more knowledge/skills than when they began
  • Emphasizing family involvement—an area which the city subsequently made one of its primary goals in its “Recovery focus”
  • Funding collaborations between schools and providers such as provider-sponsored workshops which included employees and EP students—at no cost.
Philadelphia Connections makes continuous efforts to establish collaborative planning and exchanges of information among: colleges and universities in the area, area service providers and city government.  An EP Social Work Advisory Committee that meets 3 to 4 times/year has been functioning for the past 14 years, and a similar Committee for Psychology and Counseling has been meeting for the past several years.  They have served as the only regularly scheduled, structured opportunity for representatives of provider agencies, college/university academic programs, and city government to listen to each other’s issues and exchange information on changes that effect all of them.  In the 2013-2014 school year, 60 provider agencies and 10 universities and colleges have students in the EP program.Connections has also continuously worked to help academic representatives impact city government in appropriate areas, arranging for academics to testify at planning hearings, and promoting academic involvement in city workforce planning.
The Enhanced Placement program has grown from six students in the 1999-2000 school year, to an average of over 100 for the past several years.  Over 1,000 students have gone through the program and are contacted regularly through our alumni program.  Provider and family advocacy organization representatives and area colleges and universities have formed long-term relationships (some lasting more than a decade) through our programs and Advisory Committees.  The EP program budget has remained under $75,000 for the past 14 years which has undoubtedly had an impact on its sustainability.  The EP Program and Philadelphia Connections have had consistent support from key members of city government who were and are concerned about education and workforce development from the program’s beginning, were instrumental in the organization’s creation, and essential to its continued existence.
The EP program began with six graduate students from three schools of social work doing placements in six city-funded programs.  As noted above, typical yearly numbers now exceed one hundred students, 50+ providers, and all major universities and colleges that have BH-related programs.  From two collaborations between providers and academic programs in the first year, dozens of collaborations have developed, including providers using Connections EP funding for presenting nationally-known speakers for their employees, graduate students with placements at the provider program, and all other EP students—for free.  Universities/colleges and their academic programs have used Connections funding for conferences, workshops, and seminars which provider staff are allowed to attend at no charge, and, as often as possible, receive CE credits for little or no charge.  The relatively low budget and popularity of the programs suggests that other cities could replicate this effort.
Philadelphia Connections has tracked key outcomes from its inception.  Objective tests (as opposed to students’ subjective estimations of what they have learned) show that EP students consistently show significantly increased knowledge of seminar topics on post-tests compared to pre-tests.  One to three-month follow-up re-tests show that seminar information is retained, when compared to pre-seminar levels, for most students.Another major objective has been to increase EP students’ knowledge of the public system, and to continue their involvement in public sector employment  The most recent (and typical) end-of-year assessments by students included:79% thought the program had a “fair amount” to “a great deal” of effect on their knowledge of providers and city BH agencies.60% indicated that the EP program had a “fair amount” to “a great deal” of effect on increasing their “interest and/or consider finding a job within the Philadelphia Behavioral Health System after graduation”
Supporting Files: