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Social Work Awarded Mental Health Grants

CSULB has been awarded two mental health grants, one from the state Department of Mental Health and another from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, totaling $722,188. The grants were awarded to the Department of Social Work to support two stipend programs – the state CalSWEC Mental Health Stipend Program which received $522,188 and Los Angeles County Intern Training Program Services which received $200,000.

The main goal of these two programs, according to John Oliver, director of the Department of Social Work, is to get qualified mental health professionals with master’s degrees in social work (MSW) into the work force as quickly as possible.

“MSWs have no problem finding a job because there is a shortfall of qualified social workers in the state of California,” said Oliver. “It is estimated that there is a shortfall of 25,000 social workers just in child welfare. There is a considerable shortfall of qualified MSWs in California and that is what makes programs like these so important.”

Money for grants of this kind was made available as a direct result of the passing of the Mental Health Services Act in November 2004. It supports not only the area of social work, but includes marriage and family therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

The funds for the Mental Health Stipend Program came about as a result of a collaborative proposal developed by the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC). This consortium consists of the deans/directors of the state’s 17 accredited social work graduate schools, representatives from the state’s county Welfare Directors’ Association, representatives from mental health and aging services, the California Department of Social Services, and the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. The coalition also includes representatives from state foundations. The CalSWEC main offices are located at the University of California, Berkeley, which administers the program.

The consortium’s joint application to the Department of Mental Health for a stipend program was awarded $9 million. Oliver noted that, “All the accredited schools in the state have a funded mental health stipend program. This is the second year that the Long Beach program has been funded. This year CSULB has 20 students participating in this stipend program.”

In addition to helping expedite the progression of qualified individuals into the work force, the stipend program is designed to achieve two additional objectives – to enhance the quality of child welfare and mental health service delivery and to incorporate a standardized set of mental health competencies into the curriculums of state accredited social work programs.

The total stipend for students in the program is $18,500. Recipients are required to enroll in classes to address the approved mental health competency, participate in specialized mental health education forums, maintain a 3.0 grade point average, and complete the program’s field education requirement in a mental health facility or contract agency. The stipend is paid in installments over the course of the program. Upon graduating, students must complete a one year work requirement in a mental health agency or organization.

The grant funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health provides an $8,000 stipend per student. This year, 22 CSULB students are in the L.A. County stipend program.

“Similar to the state’s CalSWEC grant, the Los Angeles County grant requires that stipend recipients be placed in a county mental health facility or a contracted mental health agency/organization,” said Oliver. “Another requirement that is different from the CalSWEC state grant is that individuals receiving one of these grants must be able to speak one of the needed threshold languages. Threshold language categories are determined by the proportion of clients receiving mental health services representing a particular ethnic/cultural population cohort. If a student cannot speak a threshold language, then they would not qualify for this stipend.”