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HRSA grants to help build social work profession

By Rena Malai, News staff

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.”

From the January 2013 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.

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