Georgia Behavioral Health Workforce Grant


For many residents of Georgia, finding mental health care can be difficult, especially in rural areas of the state.

In fact, nearly all counties in Georgia face a significant shortage of mental health professionals with just eight psychiatrists per 100,000 population, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

To expand the geographic reach of Georgia’s behavioral health workforce, researchers at the University of Georgia will train students to provide integrated mental and behavioral health services, in person and remotely, in areas the most disadvantaged in the state.

“This grant will use innovative technologies to expand training experiences and support interdisciplinary treatments,” said lead researcher Bernadette Heckman, professor at UGA Mary Frances Early College of Education. “Students will be trained and have the opportunity to conduct group teletherapy, a treatment modality that may become more and more common in the future.”

Teletherapy training

The $ 1.9 million grant to Heckman from the Human Resources and Services Administration will provide graduate students with innovative training opportunities through Georgia’s Tele-ECHO network, a resource hosted by the Department of Public Health of Georgia that virtually connects teams of interdisciplinary specialists serving rural and underserved communities.

A new Tele-ECHO group will be created specifically for the program to bring together student interns and healthcare professionals for key interdisciplinary trainings in a variety of experiential learning sites, including medically underserved rural areas; communities with racially, linguistically and economically diverse clients; crisis centers; AIDS service organizations; K-12 and special schools; residential and outpatient drug addiction treatment facilities; and more.

“Due to our already well-established telehealth training program structure, our team can continue to implement all planned training activities, regardless of the trajectory of COVID-19,” Heckman said. “Even if future waves of COVID-19 infection do occur, we can use our resource-rich tele-mental health platform and the state’s telemedicine network for experiential training. “

Using the tele-mental health platform, students will develop expertise in the evaluation, diagnosis and remote delivery of integrated interventions for youth and adults with psychological and behavioral disorders, as well as in teletherapy. of group.

These skills will ensure that program graduates receive intensive holistic training and integrated behavioral health care, as COVID-19 prompts more practitioners and training programs to perform virtually administered treatments.

Understanding the trauma

With the help of faculty from the School of Social Work, Heckman’s project will develop a new training curriculum to cover trauma and trauma-informed care.

According to Jennifer Elkins, Co-Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, trauma-informed care has become a popular buzzword, but there are gaps in people’s ability to understand and deal with trauma. , especially the intersection of trauma, substance abuse, physical health and mental health.

“It’s really important for all organizations and all areas of social service to understand trauma and work from a trauma-informed perspective,” Elkins said. “But my big concern is that we have these hospitals and schools and other institutions that can understand it and recognize it, but now we need mental health professionals who can deal with the trauma that all of these other people recognize.”

The training grant will expand and maximize experiential learning opportunities in multiple fields, providing graduate students in counseling psychology and social work with additional opportunities to interact and learn about education and inter-professional collaboration.

“Most people work in interdisciplinary settings, but what happens is we tend to go our separate ways,” Elkins said. “It is essential that we have a common language and a common understanding of what we all do and that we all work together collaboratively, ensuring that everyone has access to services. “

Other scholars on the grant include Professors Rosemary Phelps and Jolie Daigle and Associate Professor Amanda Giordano at the College of Education and Orion Mowbray at the School of Social Work.


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