Virtual training and technical assistance: a shift in behavioral health workforce access and perceptions of services during emergency restrictions

Cross-Technology Transfer Center (TTC) Workgroup on Virtual Learning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: To respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded Technology Transfer Centers had to rapidly adapt to ensure that the behavioral health workforce had continuous access to remote training and technical assistance (TTA). Although the Technology Transfer Centers have historically relied partially upon virtual methods for delivering TTA, the shift to a strictly virtual approach necessitated by COVID-19 restrictions has raised new questions for how to best proceed with services when social distancing guidelines are relaxed. The objective of this exploratory paper was to compare TTA provision in the six-month period prior to (9/1/19 thru 2/28/20) and during (4/1/20 thru 9/30/20) early COVID-19 restrictions to determine the extent to which the shift to virtual service provision impacted the behavioral health and medical workforce. Specifically, we examined participants’ access to TTA, geographic reach of TTA, and workforce perceptions of satisfaction and utility with TTA provision. Method: Participant and event-level data were analyzed to compare the following metrics before and during the COVID pandemic: number of events and attendees; participant demographics; zip codes reached; coverage of rural, suburban, and urban areas; and perceptions of satisfaction with and utility of training. Results: Findings showed a 40% increase in the number of events delivered (p <.001) and a 270% increase in the number of attendees (p <.001) during the COVID period when TTCs relied exclusively on virtual delivery. Geospatial analyses linking zip codes to a schematic of rural, suburban, and urban classifications throughout the United States revealed significant increases in the number of zip codes reached during the COVID time period. Satisfaction levels were comparable before and during the pandemic. Conclusions: Findings show that expanded access to TTA services via virtual formats resulted in reach to more diverse attendees and regions, and did not come at the expense of satisfaction. Results suggest that virtual TTA should continue to be an important component of TTA offerings post-pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number575
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


  • Behavioral health
  • COVID-19
  • Training
  • Workforce development


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