Aspen Institute Grant Supports Georgetown Community Mental Health Workers Program

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(December 12, 2023) — The Aspen Institute’s Ascend, a catalyst and convener for diverse leaders working across systems and sectors to build intergenerational family prosperity and well-being, has selected the Early Childhood Innovation Network as one of its 15 inaugural grant recipients for its 2Gen Accelerator Community.

Early Childhood Innovation Network logo

The Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN), led by Georgetown psychiatry professor Matthew Biel, MD, MSc, was selected for its best practice in building family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously focusing on children and the adults in their lives together.

ECIN is a collaboration of mental health clinicians and researchers, primary care providers, community health organizations, and family-run organizations in Washington, DC, with the goal of enhancing early childhood and family mental health.

As part of the ECIN, Biel and his colleagues established a certificate training program at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies. The Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Family Leadership Certificate program aims to train community mental health workers specializing in providing support to families with young children. Students are trained to help families navigate systems in order to access appropriate health and mental health care in communities experiencing structural inequities.

Matthew Biel
Matthew Biel, MD, MSc

“The grant from Ascend allows us to strengthen advocacy efforts for community mental health workers within the ecosystem of public health in the District,” says Biel, a 2018 Ascend Fellow. “Specifically, it will support our efforts to enhance the apprenticeship and practice-based learning components of our training program.” Biel is the Marriott Chair of Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health; a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine; and chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

The 10-month certificate program launched in fall 2021 and has served a total of 44 students. The program’s collaborators with ECIN include Georgetown’s Center for Child and Human Development and the departments of psychiatry, pediatrics, and family medicine at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Georgetown University Medical Center.

Students enrolled in the program experiencing underemployment will participate in stipend-funded apprenticeship programs in health care, education, and community-based settings.

After completing the certificate program, the new community mental health workers are able to serve their community in a variety of capacities, including as peer support specialists, home visitors, family engagement specialists, community support specialists and family navigation specialists.

“There is no more important indicator of the success of our communities and our country than the well-being of our children and families,” said Anne Mosle, vice president of the Aspen Institute and founder and executive director of Ascend, when announcing the award recipients. “Now is the time to scale high-potential solutions, pull policy levers that will unlock pragmatic pathways and opportunity for families, and improve outcomes for our nation.”