Social work students begin new integrated health training for at-risk adolescents, families

mandel-school-hpA new training program at Case Western Reserve University’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences aims to close the gap in behavioral health care services for high-risk youth and young adults.

The school will launch the Health Integration Training Expansion (HITE) project with federal funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program.

This new integrated physical and behavioral health training sequence, also referred to as integrated health, will prepare social workers for careers in advanced clinical practice with at-risk children and youth, including 18- to 25-year-olds, or transition-age young adults.

The three-year, $421,000 training grant builds on and expands the strong behavioral health competencies social work students already acquire. The program also will prepare students to practice from a more integrated health focus, working with other health care workers to provide comprehensive health care.

Up to 30 second-year students will gain first-hand experience working beside doctors and nurses in select Northeast Ohio agencies where they do field work for their master’s program.

David Hussey

HITE reflects the goals of U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Healthy People 2020,” an initiative to eliminate health disparities nationally, said David Hussey, associate professor of research and co-director of the social work school’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education.

In Cleveland, the need for integrated health approaches is especially needed because of high poverty levels, poor health behaviors, exposure to violence and mental health and substance abuse issues, Hussey said.

Nearly 16 percent of Cuyahoga County adults and 21 percent of children under age 18 live with moderate to serious mental health or substance abuse disorders, said Hussey, citing statistics from the Behavioral Health Needs Assessment for Cuyahoga County.

The presence of a mental illness is of particular concern for transition-age youth, Hussey said, because the illness often leads to poor outcomes across several areas: housing, education, employment, social relationships and quality of life. These youth often have long social service histories across multiple agencies, such as child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health.

The HITE project has three main goals:

  • Increase the number of students trained and pursuing integrated health practice careers.
  • Refine choices in curricular and learning options that help students develop advanced skills in the application of evidence-based integrated health assessment and intervention practices.
  • Strengthen the collaboration between the Mandel School and its research centers with major community integrated health care systems and initiatives to advance and disseminate integrated behavioral health practices.

HITE leverages and expands the strong connections with premiere community health providers, including the Free Clinic, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Metro Health Hospitals and Neighborhood Family Practice.

Grover C. Gilmore

“The grant is very timely, given the changing health care landscape,” said Grover C. Gilmore, dean of the Mandel School.

Gilmore said the grant will help attract and support exceptional students, whom the school will train to be leaders in integrated behavioral health—building on the health care training other schools on campus provide.

Each student will complete 1,050 hours of hands-on experience in a clinic or agency setting as part of their field work and advanced curriculum courses focused on health, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, or children, youth and families—all populations treated by local health centers. Students are also required to present a professional development seminar for peers that addresses integrated health needs of at-risk youth.

“Our students will benefit, but the high-risk youth and their families, whom the students will serve, will be the real beneficiaries,” Gilmore said.