The School of Social Work at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri–Columbia received a more than $1 million grant to increase the behavioral health work force who serve high-need young adults ages 16-25 throughout the state and in East St. Louis, Ill. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The School of Social Work at UMSL and the School of Social Work at MU received a grant totaling more than $1 million to increase the behavioral health work force who serve high-need young adults ages 16-25 throughout the state and in East St. Louis, Ill. (Photo by August Jennewein)

For many young people, their pediatrician is the only health-care worker they see. And for those who are at risk of developing mental and behavioral health problems, warning signs can be missed.

With the help of a more than $1 million grant, the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri–Columbia will work to increase the behavioral health work force who serve high-need young adults ages 16-25 throughout the state and in East St. Louis, Ill.

The grant, awarded by the United States Health Resources and Services Administration, will extend over the next three years and will allow both campuses to train a total of 84 graduate-level social work students.

Sharon Johnson, professor of social work at UMSL, is the principal investigator for the grant called the UMSL-MU Collaborative Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program.

“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.

She will collaborate with Marjorie Sable, director and professor of social work at MU.

“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.”

The program will recruit master’s level students in their last year who have a desire to work with youth in integrated behavioral health settings, which allows collaboration with primary care providers. Students will receive a $10,000 stipend while they complete on-the-job training at agencies or organizations.

Additionally, Johnson said they hope to create a web-based behavioral health training program and implement a behavioral health career services network.

“This is an excellent opportunity to train our students for the growing demand for youth-focused, behavioral health specialists throughout the state,” she said.

The Health Resources and Services Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s the primary federal agency for improving access to health care by strengthening the health-care work force, building healthy communities and achieving health equity.

The UMSL School of Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and offers bachelors and masters programs, as well as a gerontology program. UMSL’s school works with various organizations and agencies throughout the region to provide students with hands-on, real-world experience.

The MU School of Social Work is part of the College of Human Environmental Sciences. The school offers bachelors, masters and doctoral programs.

The UMSL Experience

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life
Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.