Children, adolescents, and young adults are faced with numerous barriers to receiving mental health and substance abuse services in the Twin Cities metro area. As a result, this region faces substantial health disparities, particularly among communities of color, that the Twin Cities workforce is currently unequipped to address. To meet this need, the University of Minnesota School of Social Work applied for and received a $1.28 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is great news for the school and the community,” said James Reinardy, director of the school. “The initiative addresses two of the most important and growing challenges faced by social work today: the need for social workers trained in behavioral health and in interdisciplinary practice.”
The three-year training program, called the Minnesota Social Work Initiative in Behavioral Health, aims to recruit and train 90 social work master’s degree students (M.S.W.) who are dedicated to providing mental health and substance abuse services to the target populations. Training will focus on teaching students research-supported treatment and assessment methods for working with families and individuals, as well as skills for interprofessional collaboration.
The grant was awarded to Associate Professor Joseph Merighi who will lead the implementation of the training program.
“We are very excited to have such an important opportunity to train graduate social work students who will expand and strengthen the behavioral health workforce in the Twin Cities.” Merighi said.
This training program will support graduate-level classes in clinical practice, trauma, substance abuse and mental health, and a 480-hour internship for each student in a community-based agency that targets mental health and substance abuse disorders in children, teens, and young adults.
Each student will receive a $10,000 educational stipend and professional supports, such as career counseling and networking opportunities, to help them find jobs in the field after graduation.
A diverse, interdisciplinary advisory board made up of professionals and academics with practice, training, and research expertise in behavioral health and direct service with the target population will monitor the training program’s activities. In addition, the board will ensure the training is rigorous and culturally sensitive and the program is sustainable.
The grant is sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care by strengthening the health care workforce, building healthy communities, and achieving health equity.