WESTFIELD — Last week, Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Commissioner Brooke Doyle, state Sen. John Velis, and state Rep. Kelly Pease visited Westfield State University (WSU) for a discussion of the university’s Mental Health Hub, a community-based approach to improving behavioral-health outcomes in Western Mass. The discussion focused on the challenges of delivering behavioral healthcare in the region and how education programs at WSU have adapted to meet those needs.
“One of the real challenges we are facing in the realm of behavioral healthcare is with our workforce, and that is especially true here in Western Massachusetts. We know that we need to do better at getting people into this field and training them for the comprehensive mental-health issues that people throughout our communities are facing,” said Velis, who chairs the Legislature’s Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use & Recovery.
“A lot of that work starts with our college institutions and with our students,” he went on. “Westfield State has really embraced this challenge head-on, and I am grateful to Commissioner Doyle for coming out to see these programs in action. I look forward to collaborating alongside WSU and schools throughout our Commonwealth as we continue to invest in these important types of initiatives.”
Throughout the day, Doyle and Velis also met with WSU President Linda Thompson; Dr. Robert Hayes, chair of the Psychology Department; Dr. Jennifer Hixon, chair of the Health Sciences Department and director of the Physician Assistant Program; Dr. Jessica Holden, executive director of Nursing Education; Dr. Nicholas Morrison, co-director of the Massachusetts Counseling Program and faculty in the Department of Psychology; and Dr. Rosemary Sullivan, chair of the Social Work Department.
Velis noted that he intends to visit other colleges with behavioral-healthcare education.