Public Release: 

UTSA counseling researchers receive $800,000 grant to train students for rural areas

University of Texas at San Antonio

Graduate students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) will receive specialized training to help patients in underserved Texas communities, supported by a new grant four-year, $800,000 grant from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA)'s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program.

The Program for the Integrated Training of Counselors in Behavioral Healthcare (PITCH) is a four-year program that will recruit and train 12 clinical mental health counseling students a year to work in integrated behavioral health care (IBH) settings - settings in which medical and behavioral professionals work collectively.

The program, under the direction of UTSA counseling professors Heather Trepal, Shane Haberstroh and Jessica Lloyd-Hazlett in the College of Education and Human Development, will help provide critical mental health services to rural and underserved populations.

"The primary goal of the PITCH project is to develop a local workforce of highly trained counselors to provide integrated behavioral health to rural, vulnerable and underserved communities in primary care settings," said Trepal.

Students who participate in the program will receive specialized IBH training from Dr. Stacy Ogbeide, IBH consultant, and are eligible for two $5,000 scholarships upon completion of two internships to help defer their cost of attendance.

Through a partnership with UT Health San Antonio, PITCH will also establish five IBH internship sites in the local community, including the University Health System's Robert B. Green Campus in downtown San Antonio, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, and a rural medical practice in Pearsall, Texas.

"I am looking forward to training the graduate behavioral health students and primary care clinics in the primary care behavioral health (PCBH) consultation model. My hope for this training program is to create health care environments in which integrated primary care will be a standard of care in Texas and beyond," said Dr. Ogbeide, assistant professor in the departments of family & community medicine and psychiatry at the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, UT Health San Antonio.

"This grant leverages the collaborative strengths between UTSA, UT Health San Antonio and other health care sites in the region where the students will be completing their internships," said Trepal.

Through PITCH, UTSA will also propose an IBH graduate certificate program in its Department of Counseling. Additionally, UTSA will create a virtual resource library and offer professional development trainings and workshops for local and statewide practicing counselors and health care professionals.

"PITCH will provide students with cutting-edge training and opportunities to pave the way for licensed professional counselors to join integrated health care teams," said Lloyd-Hazlett. "We are thrilled to demonstrate the value of these health care best practices here in San Antonio."

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The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program provides grants to higher education institutions to help train students in order to expand mental and behavioral health services to rural and underserved communities.

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