HRSA awards Carlow $1.9M to address mental and behavioral health challenges

PITTSBURGH – COVID-19 uprooted the status quo and disrupted our way of life. The pandemic has also laid bare pressing mental health needs and a corresponding scarcity of treatment options. This is particularly true for rural, vulnerable and underserved populations.

Carlow University will address this need using a $1.9 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded this summer.

The grant will fund hands-on interdisciplinary training for students in Carlow’s Master of Social Work (MSW) and Counseling Psychology Doctorate (PsyD) degree programs. The Carlow Underserved and Rural Engagement (CURE) program will provide stipend support for a behavioral workforce with experience in serving vulnerable populations in rural and underserved areas.

“Advocating for vulnerable and underserved populations is central to Carlow University’s own values,” said President Dr. Kathy Humphrey. “The CURE program is a timely and much needed reflection on how Carlow continues to adapt to the needs of our community regardless of what is happening around the world.”

The grant will be distributed over four years to support 25 graduate social work and 36 counseling psychology students at Carlow University, fostering knowledge and competencies through competitive learning techniques.

“Grant funding for the CURE program will allow Carlow to address real and current needs for these populations,” said Ken Smythe-Leistico, EdD, director of field education in Carlow’s MSW program. “As we have seen magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, rural and medically underserved areas face specific and unique behavioral health challenges. This would place our students in meaningful internships in areas of need and expose them to locations that may desperately need qualified staff.”

Students, faculty, staff and university partners will benefit from interprofessional, integrated behavioral health education that emphasizes service delivery to, and advocacy for, rural, vulnerable and underserved populations. This will include seminars, telehealth training, curriculum changes, outreach programs for field supervisors and faculty, and the development of a new Integrative Health Certificate program.

“Because training and implementation will run for an extended period of time, we will be able to see the tangible impact that the CURE program will have,” said Mary Burke, PhD, director of the doctoral program in Counseling Psychology. “Carlow graduates already have a reputation for being ethical leaders who provide professional care with integrity and respect for those with whom they interact. Thanks to this HRSA grant, we can ensure that this continues while also adhering to the University’s values of seeking practical ways of addressing important needs within the community.”

The mission of the CURE program also aligns closely with Carlow University’s values of service beyond ourselves to prioritize the needs of others over our own self-interest. Training starts in August 2021 and will run through June 2025.

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