CPE to Host Event in Lexington, Kentucky Focused on Increasing Mental, Behavioral Health Workforce

FRANKFORT, KY -- The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) will host the 2024 Career Ladders in Mental and Behavioral Health (CLIMB-Health) Convening on May 14 at The Campbell House in Lexington, Kentucky.

The event is open to the public but requires advance registration.

Launched in 2023, the CLIMB-Health initiative creates postsecondary pathways at Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) institutions for individuals in recovery from substance use disorders. The program enables individuals, many of whom have been incarcerated, to seek entry-level employment as peer support specialists, with opportunities for additional certifications leading to a social work degree. The initiative is part of the Council’s greater goal of increasing the state’s educational attainment rate to 60% of working-age Kentuckians by 2030.

“The CLIMB-Health program helps remove the broad-brush exclusions to postsecondary experience,” Dr. Leslie Sizemore, associate vice president for workforce and economic initiatives at CPE, said. “This convening allows us a platform to share information and ideas for the purpose of systematic change for a more economically stable Kentucky, one where we invite potential rather than exclude it.”

Confirmed speakers include:   

  • Ryan Quarles, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS)
  • Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS)
  • Katie Marks, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHDID)
  • KCTCS representatives involved in CLIMB-Health initiatives
  • Aaron Thompson, president, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Attendees will learn about new postsecondary initiatives supporting the state’s recovery and re-entry populations; explore how the work of the Kentucky Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities has re-energized some of Kentucky’s untapped workforce; and discover how artificial intelligence will augment CLIMB’s adult peer support specialist (APSS) certification training using computed-based training course design.

“The CLIMB-Health Convening will feature a workforce focus on developing and sustaining career pathways for individuals with lived experience and/or related mental and behavioral co-occurring disorders,” Carl Wilson, senior fellow for healthcare workforce initiatives at CPE, said. “If the workforce is your focus, then CLIMB-Health should be a template for any future endeavors.”

For more information or to register, visit


The Council on Postsecondary Education is leading transformation in our workforce, economy and quality of life by advancing progress in educational attainment across Kentucky. As the state’s higher education coordinating agency, we champion high-quality, inclusive and affordable postsecondary opportunities that prepare students for civic engagement and sustainable careers. That’s why we are undertaking the 60x30 goal, an ambitious effort to raise the percentage of working-age Kentuckians with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 60% by the year 2030. At CPE, we believe that higher education matters – for everyone.


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