Center for Innovation in Clinical Social Work

Mission: Prioritizing social justice, human rights, and community engagement, the Center for Innovation in Clinical Social Work serves as the intellectual hub for developing innovative clinical social work research and accelerating dissemination into practice communities.

About the Center for Innovation in Clinical Social Work

Formerly called the Center for Innovation in Behavioral Health Education and Research (CIBER), CICSW was founded in 2020. CICSW is housed within the Simmons University School of Social Work (SSW), a national leader in providing training to students across their social work careers, offering the BSW, MSW, DSW and PhD degrees. The SSW specializes in clinical social work practice, practice leadership, and scholarship to advance evidence-informed practice and policies.

The development of the CICSW is rooted in the proud tradition of Simmons social work, which offered the first professional social work training in the United States over 100 years ago. Nationally, we are the only center focused on developing innovative clinical social work research and accelerating the dissemination of clinical social work into practice, a process which can otherwise take decades. Clinical social workers are an essential part of the behavioral health workforce, making up 60% of it as a whole, and comprising more than 80% of those who become psychotherapists. Our broad focus on clinical social work supports adaptability and durability of a Center, ensuring we are ready to respond to a rapidly changing behavioral health environment.

Priorities of Social Justice, Human Rights & Community Engagement

Social justice, a core value of the profession of social work, is the orienting value of CICSW. The process and outcomes of our research and training elevate social justice by aiming to impact diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes. By focusing on such outcomes, we further our aim of protecting and promoting human rights. Our commitment to social justice and human rights is integrated into transparent and democratic processes of the CICSW.

Community engagement is central to our work. By building solidarity, reciprocity and effective partnerships with communities, and focusing in particular are those that have been historically under-served or marginalized, we are able to offer relevant trainings and outreach that allow us to disseminate research directly into practice.

Within the community of Simmons University and across professional communities, we seek to establish engaged and durable partnerships, celebrating collaboration as a centerpiece of innovation.

Key Accomplishments

  • 8 federal and foundation grants secured, totaling over $12 million.
  • 35+ trainings delivered to 1700+ behavioral health professionals on topics including substance use harm reduction, domestic violence, trauma-informed practice and supervision, racial justice, wellbeing, and telehealth practice.
  • 85 MSW practicum placements established in medically underserved areas; 44 in federally qualified health centers; 60 in integrated primary care-behavioral health settings.
  • 60+ alumni committed to careers in federally designated health-profession shortage areas and/or communities disproportionately affected by violence and trauma.
  • 1300+ MSW students experienced enhanced education through the use of new technologies.

CICSW Faculty and Staff

Lydia Ogden, PhD, MSW, LICSW


Dr. Ogden is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Work with extensive expertise in serious mental illness, aging, trauma, and social inequities in health. A licensed social work clinician, Dr. Ogden approaches her research and training projects with a critical disability lens, emphasizing outcomes of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the community.

Email Lydia Ogden

Hugo Kamya, PhD, MSW, LICSW

Associate Director

Dr. Hugo Kamya is a Professor at the School of Social Work with extensive practice, teaching and research in trauma, immigration, mental health, youth transactional sex and HIV, health and racial inequities. Dr. Kamya engages in community based participatory action research, the study of international practice and human rights, and the implementation of evidence based interventions in low-resources settings, enhancing social, cultural, and human capital in immigrant and refugee populations.

Email Hugo Kamya

CICSW Research Associates

Melinda Gushwa, PhD, MSW, LICSW

Dr. Gushwa is a Visiting Associate Professor at the School of Social Work with extensive expertise in child welfare, trauma, and mental health. Dr. Gushwa's research and training projects focus on building the trauma-informed behavioral and mental health workforce with particular focus on training clinicians from communities most affected by social and health inequities.

Email Melinda Gushwa

Eugenia Knight, MSW, LICSW

Ms. Knight is an Associate Professor of Practice and Director of MSW Practicum Education at the School of Social Work with expertise in mental health and substance use, provision of mental health services in public schools, and community-based delivery of mental health services including in public schools. Ms. Knight's work emphasizes training of emergent professionals and infusing a culturally responsive approach into evidence-informed practice.

Email Eugenia Knight

Kristie A. Thomas, PhD, MSW

Dr. Thomas is a Professor at the School of Social Work with extensive practice, teaching, evaluation, and research expertise in the field of anti-violence. Dr. Thomas's research and training projects consider the intersection of housing, poverty, family relationships, health, and other factors in relation to violence prevention and reduction.

Email Kristie Thomas

Noelle Dimitri, PhD, MSW

Email Noelle Dimitri

Renada Goldberg, PhD, MSW

Email Renada Goldberg


Rebekah S. Halmo, MSW, LCSW

Ms. Halmo is the Senior Research Manager at CIBER and a PhD candidate in the School of Social Work with expertise in education, training, and evaluation related to behavioral health workforce development, evidence-based services for substance use and opioid use disorders, harm reduction, and stigma. Ms. Halmo approaches research and evaluation through a social justice lens to produce accessible data that can help to advance health equity.

Email Rebekah Halmo

Brittany Abrego-Baltay, BA

Mrs. Abrego-Baltay is a Project Coordinator at CIBER and a MSW student in the School of Social Work, focusing on clinical practice and research with LGBTQ populations. Mrs. Abrego-Baltay applies a social justice perspective to their work and research, with the aim of expanding workforce diversity and increasing equitable access to substance use services and trauma-informed treatment and prevention.

Email Brittany Abrego-Baltay

Carlie Capell

Project Manager

Email Carlie Capell

Center for Innovation Clinical Social Work