Forging ahead: Social Work researcher receives $1.92 million renewal grant to train Detroit’s behavioral health workforce

The Wayne State University School of Social Work has received $1.92 million in additional funding from the Health and Human Services Administration (HRSA) to continue its successful Trauma Informed Integrated Healthcare-Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Grant (BHWET).

Led by Wayne State University Professor of Social Work Suzanne Brown, BHWET brings together health and behavioral health experts from across campus including Social Work Assistant Professor, Clinical and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Anwar Najor-Durack and Nursing Assistant Professor, Clinical and Graduate Specialty Coordinator for the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Umeika Stephens. Additionally College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Psychology Professor and Director of Psychology Training Clinic Douglas Barnett and Psychology Assistant Professor, Clinical Marilyn Franklin will assist in guiding the program as part of the BHWET team.

 Suzanne Brown, Douglas Barnett, Marilyn Franklin, Anwar Najor-Durack, Umeika Stephens
(from left) BHWET Research Team: Principal Investigator and Social Work Professor Suzanne Brown, Psychology Professor Douglas Barnett, Psychology Assistant Professor, Clinical Marilyn Franklin, Social Work Assistant Professor, Clinical Anwar Najor-Durack and Nursing Assistant Professor, Clinical Umeika Stephens.

Launched in 2018, BHWET works to develop and enhance the behavioral health workforce. Specifically, BHWET advances nursing, social work, and psychology education, and clinical practice through the provision of culturally competent, enhanced interprofessional education (IPE) in integrated healthcare settings. The training has a targeted focus on children, adolescents, and transitional age youth at risk for developing or who have developed a recognized behavioral health disorder and located in a medically underserved community.  

A 2012 survey published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) noted that 1 out of every 7 U.S. children aged 2 to 8 years and 1 out of 5 youth aged 9 to 17 had a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder (MBDD). “Research has shown that children and youth living in poverty and medically underserved communities have lower rates of access to treatment and medical care. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment for children and youth impact the kind of lives they live and adults they become. BHWET provides us with the opportunity to work with allied health professionals to create a support network of care for our fellow Detroiters facing these hurdles,” stated Brown.

Over the next two-year period, BHWET will train over 100 graduate students from nursing, social work, and psychology, and a minimum of 80 community-based health care professionals in integrated healthcare settings. A pillar of this training program involves the use of evidenced based structured courses and training modules in conjunction with hands-on learning experiences in primary care settings. Having trained over 70 students in BHWET thus far, the team will continue to use trauma-informed assessment and clinical intervention and treatment for at-risk children and youth in the next phase of the project. “BHWET participants will be trained to assess and assist with exposure to adverse childhood experiences, substance abuse, suicidality, interpersonal violence, and maladaptive use of social media. Ultimately we want to ensure that our students and the current behavioral health workforce are able to apply classroom knowledge to real-life experiences to meet the unique needs of our Detroit neighbors in medically underserved communities,” stated Brown.

The WSU School of Social Work has become the state’s collegiate hub for large-scale training programs. Over the past six years, Brown and Najor-Durack have collaborated with additional Wayne State faculty, departments and community agencies on multiple federal and stated funded training grants. In 2020, Brown and Najor-Durack were selected to participate in the Council for Social Work Education's (CSWE) Substance Use Disorders Expansion of Practitioner Education in Social Work (Prac-Ed) program. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Prac-Ed works to strengthen the delivery of effective, evidence-based substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services by WSU Social Work graduates. In 2019, Najor-Durack and Stephens (College of Nursing), along with the Department of Psychology, and Medical School received HRSA funding for the Opioid Workforce Education and Training Program (OWEP) which develops and increases the number of behavioral health professionals trained to address the current national opioid and substance use crisis by advancing the clinical practice for social work students. In 2015 Najor-Durack along with Stephens received SAMHSA funding for the Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) project, which trained students and behavioral health providers in evidence based assessment of substance use disorders

We have a great track record in training nursing, psychology, and social work students in integrated care settings. The continued support from HRSA to train health professionals, supervisors, preceptors, and students in evidence-based assessment and intervention will increase access to and availability of care, reduce behavioral health disparities and promote the use of Evidence informed Interventions in Michigan’s medically underserved communities. Our team is proud to lead a program that invests in our greater Detroit community by training the behavioral health workforce and students to better meet the needs of our neighbors. – Suzanne Brown

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