Michelle Zabel, MSS

Executive Director of the Innovations Institute and Associate Extension Professor

Innovations Institute

Michelle Zabel has over 30 years of experience working in child- and family-serving systems, public and private sectors, at organizational, county, and state levels across the nation. She has expertise in implementation science, service system design and sustainable financing, evidence-based and promising practices, care coordination, residential redesign, crisis response systems, and the establishment of evaluation and continuous quality improvement (CQI) approaches. She was the founding director of Innovations Institute at the University of Maryland, Baltimore in 2005 and became Assistant Dean at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and Director of The Institute for Innovation & Implementation (The Institute), managing more than 50 contracts, worth approximately $20 million annually, with the federal government, multiple state and county governments, foundations, and private organizations that span multiple years. She has been Principal Investigator (PI) for multiple state and federal contracts including two CMS-funded demonstration grants. She participated in multiple state contracts that included evaluation and CQI centered around system redesign, service array development, and sustainable public financing. Ms. Zabel developed the Maryland Evidence-Based Practice Center and the Texas Center @ The Institute, both Centers of Excellence focused on readiness assessment, installation, implementation, and evaluation of models intended to improve outcomes. These centers support CQI and workforce skill development of up to 12 evidence-based models including Wraparound and FOCUS interventions.

Ms. Zabel was PI and Project Director for SAMHSA’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Child, Youth, and Family Mental Health (NTTAC), a $34 million multi-year task order inclusive of 13 subcontractors and more than 50 consultants. During the NTTAC contract, Ms. Zabel was a Subject Matter Expert for NASMPHD’s monthly Children’s Directors meetings; a member of SAMHSA’s Child, Adolescent and Family Branch Council; and served on expert panels for numerous national policy and planning initiatives ranging from infant to teen mental health.  She continues to serve on numerous local and national committees and boards.

Under Ms. Zabel’s leadership, a CQI process was developed utilizing standardized instruments and procedures to evaluate the effectiveness of TA provided. The evaluation of the approach suggested the training and TA resulted in improved implementation outcomes, including new partnerships with external organizations, scaling of evidence-based practices, and increases in access to services and innovative funding strategies.

Ms. Zabel is the Executive Director of the Innovations Institute at the UConn School of Social Work and continues to serve as the PI for Innovations’ work with the Technical Assistance Coalition and the Transformation Transfer Initiative, both led by NASMHPD with SAMHSA funding; the National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Expansion Grants led by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing with SAMHSA funding; and, the Children’s Crisis Continuum Project funded by SAMHSA. Ms. Zabel earned her BA from Eastern University and her Master of Social Service, Clinical Track, from Bryn Mawr College. In 2022, Ms. Zabel was awarded the Mental Health Association of Maryland’s Paula Hamburger Child Advocacy Award.

Innovations Institute Director Michelle Zabel
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