This project focused on developing a methodology and recommendations for implementing a national data collection system. Multiple MDS models were considered for implementing a national system, given that data collection methods varied by profession. In summary, this project aimed to develop a methodology for unified behavioral health workforce data collection system using the information gathered from previous BHWRC projects.
Social Workers represent the largest single occupation within the entire behavioral health workforce, comprising more than 40% of all behavioral health occupations. However, much of our data and information about this sizable portion of the behavioral health workforce is limited to general information on the size of the workforce, without any detail on more granular details of social workers. To enhance our understanding of this important component of the behavioral health workforce and to support standardized data collection, the Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center (BHWRC), along with partner Consortium members and external experts developed a Social Worker Minimum Data Set (MDS). There were five main themes related to the social work workforce which the MDS collects: occupation and area of practice, education and training, licensure and certification, practice characteristics and settings, and demographics. Along with these main question themes, social workers were asked about their level of comfort sharing their information with a variety of stakeholders. The MDS instrument was distributed to all licensed social workers in the states of Arkansas, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, through the assistance of those states’ licensing boards. In total, more than 14,000 social workers were sent the MDS instrument.
Results from the social workers indicated that they were comfortable sharing their personal information with a variety of different stakeholders, including university researchers, state licensing boards, and national social work organizations. However, respondents did indicate reticence in sharing demographic information across all of the data themes. There was a variety of different specialties amongst social worker respondents, including Clinical Social Work, Mental Health Social Work and Child, Adolescent, and Family Social Work. Additionally, social workers reported a variety of practice settings where they are employed, with ambulatory care facility or clinic, hospital or in-patient facility, or private practice as the most commonly chosen. Future projects will focus on developing implementation and outreach strategies which can increase standardized data collection amongst social workers.