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Vulnerable Young Adults Will Have Better Access to Mental Health Care

MU and UMSL Receive Grant to Develop Behavioral Health Workforce

December 15th, 2014

Story Contact: Jesslyn Chew,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri (MU) School of Social Work, in partnership with the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) School of Social Work, has received more than $1 million from the United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand training to mental and behavioral health professionals throughout Missouri. The project is designed to improve access to services among high-need young adults ages 16-25 throughout the state and in East St. Louis, Ill.

“The focus of the project is to prepare master’s of social work (MSW) students for professional clinical practice in providing behavioral health care to vulnerable adolescents and young adults,” said Marjorie Sable, director of the MU School of Social Work and principal investigator for the MU portion of the grant. “In our state and throughout the U.S., those aged 16-25 often fall through the cracks and fail to get the services they need. This project will develop more professionals who are trained to meet the needs of these youth and thereby increase young adults’ access to services.”

Over the course of three years, the grant will fund 84 students pursuing their MSW degrees at MU and UMSL. Each participating student will receive a $10,000 stipend while they complete on-the-job training at agencies that provide integrated behavioral health services to youth. Integrated behavioral health is an emerging model of health care in which behavioral health and primary care providers collaborate to provide holistic care to individuals. The grant also will fund on-site and web-based trainings for integrated health professionals throughout the state.

“This project will give students opportunities to gain practical experience so that, after they graduate, they are equipped to make immediate contributions to helping at-risk young adults in Missouri,” Sable said. “Working at agencies that serve youth and practice integrated behavioral health will provide students with opportunities to work on teams with other professionals and increase students’ cultural competence so they are prepared for leadership roles.”

Sable said the project extends both schools’ proven commitments to providing behavioral health to underserved populations.

“We’re excited to collaborate with UMSL’s School of Social Work, and it’s a natural partnership,” Sable said. “With UMSL’s urban presence and MU’s reach throughout the central and rural areas of the state, we’ll be able to reach a large population of Missourians. It’s a way for MU to uphold its land-grant mission of serving its citizens and improving their lives through education. ”

The grant, “UMSL-MU Collaborative Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program,” is led by Sharon Johnson, professor of social work at UMSL.

“This grant will allow us to utilize the resources of both campuses for training MSW students to recognize and treat the unique demands of the adolescent and young adult populations who have unmet behavioral health needs,” Johnson said.

HRSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded the grant, G02HP27945-01-00.

The MU School of Social Work is part of the College of Human Environmental Sciences.