Featured Experts

Michelle Zabel, MSS

Michelle ZabelMichelle Zabel, MSS, an assistant dean and director of The Institute for Innovation & Implementation (The Institute) at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, has over 30 years of experience working in child- and family-serving systems in both public and private sectors at organizational, county, and state levels across the country.

Zabel has provided training and technical assistance on financing, workforce development, and service system design and implementation, including care coordination, mobile crisis response and stabilization services, and, evidence-based and promising practices.

Zabel began her career in Philadelphia’s child-serving systems and was an early adopter of the Child and Adolescent Service System Program, a precursor to Systems of Care. Because of that early orientation, Zabel’s work has focused on improving access to and the quality of home and community-based care for children with serious behavioral health needs. Zabel’s most recent work focuses on assisting states with service delivery systems design in conjunction with health care reform and the implementation and sustainability of various evidence-based and promising practices.

Since 2005, Zabel has been at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She is director of The Institute, which  includes approximately 115 faculty, staff, and students and has more than 50 contracts worth approximately $20 million annually with the federal government, multiple state governments, foundations, and private organizations. The Institute’s faculty and staff have nationally recognized expertise and leadership in the fields of parent, infant, and early childhood mental health and early childhood development; children’s mental health; clinical practice; care management; Medicaid, managed care and financing; child welfare; juvenile justice; substance use; housing and homelessness; LGBTQ+ youth; trafficking; and transition age young adults. The Institute is a leader in building effective services to improve the well-being and ensure vibrant futures of youth and their families through the provision of training, technical assistance, facilitation, analysis, consulting, implementation support, and research and evaluation to support workforce development, systems design and financing, data-driven strategic planning, and quality improvement in child- and family-serving systems. The Institute’s technical assistance and activities touch nearly every state and territory in the country: The Institute has trained over 40,000 practitioners in child welfare, children’s behavioral health, and other child- and family-serving systems through online and in-person training.

Under Zabel’s leadership, the work of The Institute is grounded in research, experience, and expertise from the field, adult learning theory, and implementation science.  The Institute is committed to building research-based, innovative, sustainable, and transformative youth- and family-serving systems and services, and to developing the capacity of the workforce within these systems. This work is done in partnership with government agencies, health care providers, and community-based organizations to improve quality and effectiveness of services that are responsive to unique needs of children, youth, young adults, and their families from different communities, cultural backgrounds, and experiences. 

Zabel currently serves as principal investigator and project director for the National Technical Assistance Network for Children’s Behavioral Health (TA Network), SAMHSA’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Child, Youth, and Family Mental Health (NTTAC). She is a senior advisor for the National Wraparound Implementation Center (NWIC), and a member of the SAMHSA Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch Council.

Previous roles include associate vice president of ambulatory services for a behavioral health network serving nine counties in two states; director of the Department of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein Healthcare Network; director of the Burlington Partnership SAMHSA Grant; member of the state executive leadership team for New Jersey’s Children’s SOC Initiative; and program director of Bucks County Living in Family Environments. 


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