Behavioral Health Support Specialist (BHSS)

Project Type(s):

Our goals for this project include (1) Design competency framework and learning objectives that define the role and scope of practice for a BHSS; (2) Scale the role for Washington state by creating processes for integrating the BHSS Clinical Training Program into existing four-year degree programs in the behavioral healthcare field; (3) Partner with Washington state higher education institutions to adopt the BHSS Clinical Training Program; (4) Develop curricular resources to share with Washington State colleges and universities including an Educator’s Guide; (5) Collaborate with government agencies, employers, and policy groups to implement legislation establishing a BHSS credential in Washington state.

For information, please contact:
Bill O’Connell, Ed.D.
Director, Clinical Training Program

Savannah Tidwell, BS
Program Manager, Clinical Training Program

Project Period:
July 1, 2021 June 30, 2026

Funding Type(s):
Foundation, Philanthropy

Ballmer Group

Geographic Area(s):

Practice Type(s):
Primary Care

Patient Population(s):

Targeted Condition(s):
Anxiety, Depression

We aim to expand Washington’s behavioral health workforce and increase access to evidence-informed behavioral health treatment that is culturally responsive, appropriate and timely. We do this through the introduction of a new bachelor-prepared provider type called a Behavioral Health Support Specialist (BHSS). This Clinical Training Program prepares students to be successful as a BHSS. Under supervision, a BHSS provides brief, evidence-based interventions for behavioral health conditions and applies measurement-based care strategies to track patient progress and facilitates referrals to specialty services within the community. Review this sample job description for details. For more information, please visit our website or contact us at

In 2020, the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences received a gift from Ballmer Group to develop curricular materials to train a BHSS as well as identify pathways toward scaling the role for Washington State. A particular focus of the gift was to build behavioral health workforce in rural and under resourced regions of the state. The UW BHSS Clinical Training Program launched in July 2021 and will continue through the end of 2026. The BHSS Clinical Training Program serves as a catalyst for this new workforce role and consults with educational programs, practicum sites, professional associations, professional advocacy groups, employers, policy groups, payers and government regulatory agencies. A goal for the BHSS workforce project is to train 50 students and employ 40 BHSSs by 2026.

On May 4, 2023, Governor Inslee signed SSB 5189 sponsored by Senator Yasmin Trudeau of Tacoma to establish a Behavioral Health Support Specialist in Washington State. The legislation requires the Department of Health to establish a BHSS credential by January 1, 2025, and for the Health Care Authority to include the BHSS in Medicaid reimbursement plans.

The BHSS project receives funding from the Ballmer Group to explore, design, develop, and implement curriculum for a BHSS in Washington. The project team has no financial conflicts of interest.

  • Anna Ratzliff, MD, PhD, Professor, Lead Administrator
  • Bill O’Connell, EdD, Associate Professor, Program Director and Subject Matter Expert
  • Alan Gojdics, MEd, Associate Director for Education
  • Melissa Farnum, MA, Senior Instructional Designer
  • Sara Ochoa, MEd, Instructional Designer
  • Annie McGuire, MS, MHA, Clinician Trainer, Subject Matter Expert
  • Brenna Renn, PhD, Affiliate Faculty, Subject Matter Expert
  • Patrick Raue, PhD, Professor, Subject Matter Expert
  • Savannah Tidwell, BS, Program Manager

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Project Flyer

Download this project flyer about the BHSS Clinical Training Program.