SSW Awarded Major Federal Grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration

October 02, 2014

Simmons School of Social Work was recently awarded a major Federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The award, totaling $973,585, will be used over the course of three years to fund the SSW's new Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative (BHWI).

With Kim Harriman, Associate Professor of Practice & Director of Field Education, acting as the Project Director, the BHWI aims to increase the number of social workers who pursue careers in primary care clinics with integrated behavioral health services.

"The resources infused into social work education by the HRSA grant further affirms the role of social work in this new practice model. The 'person-in-environment' lens that is so emblematic of the profession has a natural place at the table in primary care settings; and the professional social worker's voice as advocate, diagnostician, consultant, and clinician will be enhanced by the exciting opportunity this grant affords our students", Harriman states.

With an emphasis on inter-professional practice and advanced clinical training in evidence based behavioral health interventions, the new BHWI will recruit 73 advanced year MSW students to complete field placements in integrated care settings in community health centers, mental health clinics and public schools.

"I am very excited about this opportunity. There is great need to make behavioral health social work clinicians available in primary healthcare, where most children and youth with behavioral health disorders are seen, but not served, " said David Robinson, Director of the Center For Applied and Community Research. "With these funds, students in their advanced year of graduate study will be placed in sites that integrate primary healthcare and behavioral health for children and youth with behavioral health disorders."

In addition, as a result of this funding, the SSW will increase the overall number of field placements in integrated care settings that offer behavioral health services to children, youth and transitional age youth. The larger context for the BHWI is very important due to the substantial impact of the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity Act on the health care delivery system and workforce.

As Harriman states, "With the advent of the ACA, there is much hope that barriers to care for marginalized groups will begin to fall away. The integration of mental health services in primary care settings makes way for prevention, detection, and early intervention for high risk youth who might have otherwise gone unnoticed." As SSW Interim Dean, Suzanne Sankar points out, " Increasing the supply of well trained social work clinicians, and preparing that workforce to respond to the clinical demands created by the new integrated care model, are significant challenges for social work schools and the social work profession." With this award Simmons School of Social Work will move one step closer to responding to that challenge!