‘Embracing change’ during COVID and beyond 

By Greg Grisolano, for the ATTC Network 


The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for seismic change. It has forced many to adapt to new technologies and to innovate solutions in the face of previously unthinkable challenges.

In July, the ATTC Network launched a series of articles about how our centers have gone about meeting those changes while continuing to provide training and technical assistance to those who request it. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic became an opportunity to begin “Embracing Change.” Messenger Article Dec 22

We invite readers to explore the whole series on our blog. Links are included in this article. 

Harm Reduction pilot program takes off

As harm reduction becomes increasingly integrated into drug treatment and prevention programs, the ATTC Network is prepared to provide consultation to help organizations incorporate it into their strategic responses.

The Mid-America ATTC launched a consultation pilot program in 2022, providing support for three drug treatment and mental health organizations and one local health department.

Jill Eriksen, a senior project manager from the Mid-America ATTC who worked closely on the project, said it was a great opportunity to listen to agencies and tailor training needs to their treatment services.

“Harm Reduction takes a compassionate approach to people that have substance use disorders,” she said. “Agencies understand the importance of shifting the paradigm to engage their clients in meaningful change that empowers the individual to take an active role in seeking and committing to long-term recovery.” 

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Our national population-specific centers talked about how they have helped their communities embrace change during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Hispanic and Latino ATTC continues collaborating with community agencies and regional TTCs, connecting communities and embracing equity. Some results include three new learning series focused on the workforce development of behavioral health providers working with Hispanic/Latino/Latinx communities. 

The National American Indian & Alaska Native ATTC highlighted lessons learned from its Tribal Opioid Response program, which began with in-person meetings in 2019 but pivoted to fully virtual in 2020. 

“(W)e learned that online trainings and meetings also had unintended benefits. Grantees did not have to budget time or money for travel; they were able to connect with other grantees outside their own geographic areas… Just as important, we witnessed the incredible strength, resilience, and creativity of Native communities in addressing OUDs.”

The New England ATTC wrote about the role Recovery Community Organizations play in delivering services to those from historically marginalized and underserved communities.

And the Northeast and Caribbean ATTC is currently providing technical assistance support to Dr. Sidney Hankerson in Columbia University’s pilot study, “Depression Screening in Black Churches.” This clinical trial  tests the viability of using SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) with African Americans versus the traditional mental health referral process.

The pilot program recruits members of church congregations to train as Community Health Workers (CHWs) in the facilitation of SBIRT. Although the study remains ongoing, “the hope is that data will show that SBIRT can help increase access to care for African American communities burdened with a high prevalence of depression and possibly other mental illnesses.”

More resilience in the face of COVID-19

When the pandemic lockdowns took place a month after launching the second cohort of its change leadership pilot program, the Pacific Southwest ATTC team had to make radical changes in its approach, platforms and tools.

“We threw out our tried and true ‘three-day, in-person, intensive training workshop,’ and replaced it with a five-week, eight-session, 21-hour virtual training academy… The pandemic served as a major innovation disruptor to our team, causing us to pivot to the new realities that COVID-19 brought, not only in how we engaged with agencies to deliver intensive technical assistance but also how change was occurring within these agencies and the types of changes that they prioritized to address.”

As COVID forced many providers to expand their telehealth offerings rapidly, the Mountain Plains ATTC collaborated with the Pacific Southwest ATTC on sample policies for the delivery of SUD-related services via Audio-Only Telehealth, and wrote about the need for expanding access to such services

And the Central East ATTC reflected on ways behavioral health professionals could take steps to recover from burnout and compassion fatigue

Other Training and Technical Assistance success stories

The Northwest ATTC  uses the EPIS model to help programs enhance their co-occurring disorder services, providing a blueprint for success for others to follow

In South Carolina, the Southeast ATTC facilitated a statewide training initiative for Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

The Great Lakes ATTC shared insights from three subject matter experts on “infusing” TA and ITA content with NIATx principles and the Change Leader Academy (CLA) curriculum. 

Stay tuned for the final installment from the South Southwest ATTC on Dec. 15.