In an effort to combat the national opioid crisis in the United States and to prepare social work practitioners for work in the field of integrated behavioral health through clinical training, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded the NC State Department of Social Work $1,343,963 to train and prepare students to become clinical social workers to combat opioid use disorders (OUD) and other substance use disorders (SUD). This program is specifically for second-year or advanced standing MSW students at NC State. HRSA also awarded the department a paraprofessional grant for $898,762 to enhance community-based training for students preparing to focus on opioids and other SUDs. The paraprofessional grant provides tuition assistance for courses that lead to addiction certification and is open to paraprofessionals in the community. These students will take tuition-free SUD specific courses at NC State’s Department of Social Work.
This three-year grant will recruit and train 84 social workers to enter the OUD/SUD workforce. The paraprofessional grant will provide tuition and fees for 210 seats in OUD/SUD courses at NC State. We will partner with many in the community to provide knowledge and information to combat stigma and promote access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
This grant, led by Dr. Jodi Hall, an alumna of the NC State Department of Social Work’s BSW program and Principal Investigator, is one of four groundbreaking HRSA programs that provide resources to expand the workforce for mental health and substance use disorders. The NC State’s Department of Social Work is the only university in the state to have been awarded HRSA behavioral health grants at the professional and paraprofessional level.
The addition of these two OUD/SUD focused awards is the 4th grant that Dr. Hall has received from HRSA. As principal investigator of $5,244,130, Dr. Hall is focused on faculty collaboration that significantly impacts the behavioral health of the state and positions NC State as a leader in workforce development and education for integrated behavioral health. Dr. Hall states that these recent awards, that total $2,242,725 are the result of the hard work and collaborative efforts of multiple faculty members including Barbara Zelter, Drs. Jocelyn Taliaferro, Alan Ellis, Kim Stansbury, Natalie Ames, Quiana Cryer Coupet, and Maura Nsonwu. A newly hired assistant professor, Dr. Sarah Ascienzo has joined the team. Dr. Hall stated, “It is important to have a diverse group of committed people at the table. This allows for stronger creativity and ideas. It is rarely the case that any one person has all of the best ideas. This was a deliberate and successful attempt to harness the talent and intellect of multiple faculty members. My goal is to continue to bring in federal and state funds and involve even more members of the faculty and community.” In addition to the aforementioned funds, Dr. Karen Bullock is the Principal Investigator of HRSA Behavioral Health grant for paraprofessionals for $1,191,882 for a Department of Social Work total of $6,436,012.
With the demand for integrated care increasing, the recognition of social work contribution to the field and the request for increasing numbers of practitioners have added to the strain on current practitioners and social work graduates. To address the dire need for credentialed mental health professionals in North Carolina and across the U.S., the awarding of this grant to the Department of Social Work will not only serve to benefit individuals in rural and medically underserved areas but also social work students dedicated to serving in these communities.
Like students in other disciplines, social work undergraduate and graduate students must bear the financial burden associated with earning their degree which often means going into debt and taking out high-interest personal and student loans. With the expansion of the HRSA programs at NC State’s Department of Social Work, social work students who are dedicated to serving rural and medically underserved populations can receive financial support and benefit from interprofessional training with community health workers, psychology interns, and other interdisciplinary professional colleagues. The HRSA programs support and encourage these integrated trainings through academic and community partnerships.