Tuesday, June 15, 2021

By Lois J. Gray

Iowa youth living in rural, medically underserved communities will gain access to more mental and behavioral health experts thanks to a new four-year nearly $2 million dollar grant, led by experts in the University of Iowa College of Education and other campus and community partners.

The grant, which is funded by the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program/Health Resources and Services (HRSA) Program, is entitled, “Building a Mental Health Workforce to Serve Rural Iowa Youth.”

The program will expand practicum sites in rural Iowa and establish a subspecialty in integrated behavioral health focused on rural child and adolescent mental health. The ultimate goal is to retain more mental health experts to live and work in rural Iowa communities to benefit youth.

This project is a collaboration between the UI Counseling Psychology Program in the College of Education, the UI Stead Family Department of Pediatrics, the UI Carver College of Medicine Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry, the UI School of Social Work in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the UI Mobile Health Clinic, and the Grinnell College Student Health and Wellness Center (SHAW).

The grant will expand current partnerships with all of these areas as well as develop new partnerships with the UI Division of Child and Community Health and Child Specialty Clinic’s HRSA funded program (Iowa Pediatric Mental Health Care Access program), the National Resource Center for Family Center Practice (NRCFCP), in the School of Social Work, and the Iowa Psychological Association.

It will build upon the success of the currently funded BHWET grant to create a new subspecialty training in Child and Adolescent Mental Health within the existing BHWET Professional Track, Integrating  Behavioral Health into Rural Medicine.

This grant will supplement and complement current training efforts and provide new clinical training opportunities for Counseling Psychology doctoral and Masters in Social Work (MSW) students focused on mental and behavioral health care for children and adolescents living in rural medically underserved areas (MUA) across Iowa.

This new program directly addresses the critical national need for more Ph.D.-level psychologists and master level social workers who can deliver coordinated care to address the mental and behavioral health needs of rural youth.

“This funding support will allow us to develop new activities that will train our students to provide services in integrated primary care settings to children and adolescents living in medically underserved areas of Iowa,” says Saba Rasheed Ali, project director and co-principal investigator.

Ali says the interdisciplinary nature of the project will provide good training opportunities to help students learn to work more effectively with allied disciplines to better serve children and adolescents.

Megan Foley Nicpon, co-principal investigator, adds, "We will leverage these new and existing partnerships to create practicum placements and training opportunities for Counseling Psychology doctoral and Masters in Social Work students. The new partnerships will provide opportunities for students to work with youth and families in need of mental health services, particularly in rural medically underserved communities.”

Principal investigators Ali, College of Education associate dean for research, and Foley Nicpon, departmental executive officer of the Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, will manage the project. They are also both Counseling Psychology professors.

Denise Martinez, M.D., associate dean and clinical associate professor of Family Medicine in the Carver College of Medicine and faculty director of the UI Mobile Health Clinic; and Charles Bermingham, clinical faculty/Counseling Psychology, and director of the Doctoral Program at Grinnell College Student Health and Wellness Center (SHAW), are also co-project directors.

HRSA funds will support the development of the following:

  • new courses, seminars, and trainings that will lead to a subspecialty track in child and adolescent mental health;
  • supervision and training experiences with partners in family medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and social work;
  •  new training experiences for students in telemental health practice;
  • opportunities for students to learn and practice in multi-disciplinary teams;
  • and create a workforce development plan for retaining students after they graduate to stay in Iowa to serve rural communities.