Public Release: 

UT Arlington wins $1.4 million to combat mental health, substance abuse worker shortage

University of Texas at Arlington

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IMAGE: This is Associate Dean of the UT Arlington School of Social Work, director of the Center for Addictions and Recovery Studies at UT Arlington, and principal investigator on the grant. view more

Credit: UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington has received a $1.4 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to help increase the number of mental health and substance abuse workers in the United States.

Tens of millions of Americans suffer from mental health or substance abuse illness. But there are not enough practitioners to treat what the DHHS considers a major public health concern for the nation.

The funding from the agency's Health Resources and Services Administration will support stipends for UT Arlington School of Social Work students who are eligible to intern and receive specialized training at MHMR of Tarrant County and Metrocare Dallas. The federal grant requires UT Arlington to team with a major agency that has access to large numbers of minority and low-income families in need of help, but lack the resources to get mental health services elsewhere.

"We are ecstatic about this grant and what it will mean for our efforts to prepare the next generation of social workers, and to serve people with mental health and substance abuse issues," said Debra Woody, associate dean of the UT Arlington School of Social Work, director of the Center for Addictions and Recovery Studies at UT Arlington, and principal investigator on the new grant.

"People are interested in helping those in need, but mental health and substance abuse work requires long hours. It can be frustrating and difficult work. It can also be very rewarding work. There is hope and methods for helping those individuals and families who need it," Woody said.

The specialized training will provide students with hands-on experience in providing case management, therapy and counseling to individuals and families with documented mental health problems such as depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and alcohol and substance abuse problems.

Woody said the grant complements the specializations that UT Arlington already offers its social work students.

"Social work, nursing and psychology programs across the U.S. had the opportunity to apply for that money," Woody said. "We applied for the funds to increase our efforts to respond to the lack of mental health workers. At UT Arlington, we have five specializations. Mental health and substance abuse is one concentration. So this grant just really fit well with where we are heading and what we are already doing."

In addition to mental health and substance abuse, UT Arlington School of Social Work students may focus their studies on aging, community administration, health, and family and children. Just 15 percent of currently enrolled students are focusing on mental health and substance abuse.

Scott Ryan, dean of the UT Arlington School of Social Work and a co-principal investigator on the new grant, said winning the highly competitive federal grant speaks to the strength of the program, which has experienced record growth over the past year.

This fall, enrollment climbed to 1,807 students, up 8.7 percent from Fall 2013.

"I think this grant represents a wonderful chance for UT Arlington to strengthen its connections to the community while helping a vulnerable population," Ryan said. "In addition, the opportunity presented to UT Arlington School of Social Work students through specialized training and financial support is only available in a very limited number of social work programs."

"I am honored that our School of Social Work was selected to be one of those programs of excellence selected."

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Other co-investigators on the new grant include Randy Basham, associate professor and director of the Master of Social Work Program, Katherine Sanchez, assistant professor of social work, and Alexa Smith-Osborne, associate professor and director for the Center for Clinical Social Work at UT Arlington.

About the UT Arlington School of Social Work

UT Arlington's School of Social Work is nationally and internationally recognized for its expertise in social work, as well as equipping students with the education and skills to transform society through service since 1967. With more than 1,800 students enrolled in its academic programs, the School of Social Work offers three main academic programs: the Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work and Ph.D. in Social Work. Visit http://www.uta.edu/ssw/ to learn more.

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit http://www.uta.edu to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.

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