HRSA grants to help build social work profession

The Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded 24 schools of social work and psychology with grants totaling $9.8 million.

The grants, through the Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Grants Program, were  made possible by the Affordable Care Act.

According to HHS, mental health conditions are among the top five chronic illnesses in the U.S., and the grants will help in recruiting students and providing support for clinical training in mental and behavioral health.

“Mental health services are critical for those dealing with post-traumatic stress and other severe problems,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release. “Increasing the number and quality of providers to care for these individuals is a major step forward.”

The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, which was reintroduced in 2009 by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., investigates the reasons for the lack of trained professionals in the social work field and addresses the need to increase the numbers. 

According to Darla Spence Coffey, president of the Council on Social Work Education, the grants are in line with the goals of the SWRA and provide an investment back into the field of social work.

 “The Social Work Reinvestment Act calls for wholesale investment in the social work profession, including funding for education and training grants,” Coffey said. “The HRSA program contributes to the implementation of this section of the bill. While social work students and practitioners are eligible for other HRSA training programs, those opportunities are limited and none explicitly target social work for such investment.”

The grants will be used in a variety of ways at each institution, said NASW Senior Practice Associate Stacy Collins, but the common goal is to boost the number of trained social workers across the U.S.

“Depending on the institution, some will offer tuition scholarships, some may invest the money into their schools of social work,” Collins said. “The grant is awarded to the chosen institutions because they demonstrated a commitment to building the social work workforce.”

There are many reasons the grants are important to the social work field, Coffey said.

“The HRSA Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Grant represents one of the only federal programs dedicated to building capacity specifically in the social work profession,” she said. “These grants will seek to close the gap in access to mental and behavioral health care services by increasing the number of adequately prepared social workers. It provides funding to schools and programs of social work for student recruitment. It is a critical investment to assist social work programs in meeting the needs for social workers.”

The Mental and Behavioral Health Education and Training Grants Program addresses a critical need for more mental and behavioral health providers, HHS said, especially those trained in trauma and abuse, combat-related stress, substance abuse, and the needs of chronically ill people and their families.

For more information, visit the Health Resources & Services Administration.

Mental and Behavioral health education and training grants

FY 2012 awardees are:

  • Texas State University-San Marcos
  • Trustees of Boston University
  • Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania
  • Research Foundation of SUNY, Albany
  • Regents of the University of Michigan
  • New York University
  • West Virginia University Research Corporation
  • University of New England
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Regents of the University of Minnesota
  • Norfolk State University
  • Research Foundation of CUNY on behalf of Lehman College
  • University of Houston
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Yeshiva University
  • The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • University of Hawaii
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • University of Florida
  • Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • The Curators of the University of Missouri
  • Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education
  • Hugo W. Moser Research Institute at Kennedy Krieger Institute, Inc.
  • University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc.