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Member Voices

Member Voices

Bert Plant: A Big Picture Administrator

Bert & Diane enjoy lunch at general meeting

Bert & Diane enjoy lunch at general meeting

Dr. Robert Plant, known as Bert, grew up in Port Chester, New York. He received the Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from the University of Rochester, and came to Connecticut on a Yale doctoral fellowship. He worked for a number of years in the private sector both in substance abuse treatment and services to children and families. In 2000 he joined the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) as Superintendent of Riverview Hospital. Since 2003 he has served as Director of Community Programs and Services in the DCF Bureau of Behavioral Health and Medicine.

A “big picture” administrator who works to improve the system of care and services, Dr. Plant sees workforce development as critical to delivery of quality services. “Even if we have the greatest models and all the funding we need, if we don’t have a workforce to deliver care, we won’t accomplish our goals and objectives,” he stated. Through his involvement in implementing evidence-based practices, he has seen the importance of a continual focus on workforce, including the importance of supervision and feedback to support continuing staff development and effective practice. Vacancies caused by turnover or lack of staff are one of the most significant barriers to access in some service sectors, he noted.

During the Transformation Grant planning phase, Dr. Plant was a Co-Chair of the Workgroup on Excellent Care. The group selected Wraparound as a service focus using a workforce approach. The Connecticut Family and Community Partnership Wraparound Initiative workforce project aims to implement a practice model with providers serving youth. When the Collaborative was created in spring 2008, Dr. Plant joined its Executive Council as a founding member.

Dr. Plant said that it would be very useful to know the number of consumers, youth and family members in the behavioral health workforce right now, whether in volunteer or paid roles, with stipends or not. Many parents participate in volunteer roles in DCF – regional councils, statewide groups, and youth councils. DCF-funded non-profit providers employ peer and family advocates and have other paid positions where lived experience is one factor considered for employment. He commented that there are undoubtedly employees who have lived experience of emotional and substance use conditions among currently employed staff.

When asked about his perspective on the Collaborative, Dr. Plant commented, “One of the significant benefits of the Collaborative is the ability to ‘connect the dots’ – identify and connect various initiatives related to workforce. This can lead to synergistic effects that help us get further. It’s easy for workforce to be pushed off the table when we are working on other tasks. The existence of the Collaborative helps us to focus on workforce issues.”

In concluding the interview, our roving reporter asked whether Dr. Plant has a message for other Collaborative members and those interested in the behavioral health workforce. Dr. Plant responded with the following food for thought: “I wonder whether our educational programs should be training mainly generalists or focusing more on training future workers in proven practices.”

The Collaborative is fortunate to have Dr. Plant as a member and to benefit from his experience and knowledge.

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