The UNC Charlotte School of Social Work has been awarded a $2 million federal grant to provide scholarships for graduate students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds who are preparing for careers in behavioral health care.
100 students will receive full academic scholarships to pursue a master's degree under the new Behavioral Health Scholars program. In exchange, the students agree to work with underserved populations in primary care behavioral health settings after graduation.
The School of Social Work will use the funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to expand efforts to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds and support its mission to meet demands for a diverse workforce.
“Charlotte and North Carolina are growing and rapidly diversifying,” said MSW Director Bob Herman-Smith.” “We want to recruit and train future social workers who reflect that diversity. Greater diversity in the health professions is associated with improved patient access to care, more patient choice and better patient-clinician communication.”
Although the US population is roughly 68% white, racial and ethnic minorities account for only 19 % of all psychiatrists, 5% of psychologists and 10% of counselors, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.
“Some people who need health and behavioral health care the most avoid getting it due to differences in culture, race, language, or educational background between themselves and health care providers,” said Herman-Smith.
“They are not sure people who are different from them will understand and respect them as individuals. Research shows that a more diverse behavioral health care work force increases trust between these individuals and health care providers, so more people get care before problems become serious and more difficult to treat.”
As part of the program, scholarship awardees will also complete team-building exercises, receive personalized tours of campus based student services and participate in faculty-led training. In addition to money for tuition, students will also be provided stipends for books and expenses.
The first group of 25 scholars will be selected this academic year; 25 additional students will earn full scholarships each year through 2020.
by: Wills Citty