By Paul R. Pace
Prior to coming to the United States, Bisrat Abebe, director of Region I of the NASW national board of directors, spent several years studying philosophy and theology in a Catholic seminary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“When I started an MSW program at Boston College, my plan was to work in HIV/AIDS, with the immigrant population here in Boston or maybe to go back to Ethiopia,” he says. “I was familiar with these populations and issues.”
However, his experiences as a clinical social work intern opened his eyes to the impacts of severe mental illness, as well as the intersecting issues of mental health, substance use disorders, poverty, incarceration, and racism.
“This changed the trajectory of my professional career,” says Abebe, LCSW, LICSW, MA. “I have now spent over 17 years working on these important issues.”
Abebe is the service director for Community Health Resources’ Medication for Opioid Use Disorder programs, which provide treatment in six Department of Correction facilities within the state of Connecticut. He has more than 16 years of clinical, supervisory, and administrative experience as a licensed clinical social worker in Massachusetts and Connecticut. His previous work experience includes serving as dean of Academic Support Services at MIT and adjunct professor in several MSW programs.
Throughout his career, Abebe has spearheaded efforts to improve access to care for young adults and incarcerated individuals, as well as recruiting and retaining diverse staff. Abebe served on the Boston College School of Social Work Alumni board from 2015 to 2018 and was recently selected as a member of the Coalition for Racial Justice Task Force for the town of Longmeadow, Mass.
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