Jody Levison-Johnson, Ph.D. is a 2020 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Jody Levison-Johnson at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Chair, Dr. Sharon Hodges, Committee Member, Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, Committee Member

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Sharon Hodges, Ph.D., Committee Member


Childrens Mental Health, Childrens Mental Health Systems, Constraint, Leadership, Mental Health, Narrative Inquiry, Public Sector, Retrenchment

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Across the United States, each state has a public mental health system that is designed to support children and youth with emotional and behavioral challenges. This is critically important as recent estimates show that one in six children in the United States has a diagnosed mental health condition (Whitney & Peterson, 2019). The design and structure of these systems vary by state, but consistent across them is the presence of a state-designated leader who is faced with an array of constraining factors that influence their behavior and shape the resulting system. This study describes the experience of leaders in children’s mental health administration and how they define, interpret, and perceive their current environments; the constraining factors that impact them, such as decline, instability, risk, politics, policy, and random events; and the strategies they engage in to achieve their goals. Using narrative inquiry, this study captures the experiences of ten leaders engaged in state-level children’s mental health system reform. These stories paint a rich picture of the complexity of leading change in public sector environments where there is dynamic interplay across people, politics, and policy and offer new insights into effecting change in complex systems. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Jody Levison-Johnson

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0002-9822-7582

Jody Levison-Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker with nearly 30 years of experience in the field of human services. She currently serves as the President and CEO of the Council on Accreditation, an international nonprofit accrediting body for human and social service organizations and public sector systems.

Jody is a longstanding champion for systems change that results in the ability for individuals and communities to thrive. She is deeply committed to advancing policy that ensures equitable access to quality services and supports for children, youth, and families.

Prior to joining COA, Jody served as the Assistant Vice President of Practice Improvement at the National Council for Behavioral Health, where she oversaw the organization’s consulting portfolio and a large, privately funded adolescent mental health initiative. She has also served as the Chief Clinical Officer for a multi-state children's care management organization, as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health, and as the Vice President of Coordinated Care Services, Inc. (CCSI), a non-profit management and consulting services organization where was responsible for all of CCSI's service quality, system development, and evaluation activities including oversight of the county administered children’s mental health system. Her experiences leading system reform efforts across the country served as the foundation for her interest in understanding the environmental contexts that surround deep change in public systems.

Jody holds a Master of Social Work degree from Syracuse University and a Master of Arts and PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University.