Bilingual and Ethnic Minority Psychologists Will Increase With Educational Psychology Grant

The first Graduate Psychology Education Program grant to be awarded to a Department of Educational Psychology has been given to The University of Texas at Austin for the training of doctoral psychology students in integrated health care.

The $369,000 grant, awarded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, was created to address the severe shortage of bilingual and ethnic minority child psychologists, including school psychologists, who can provide mental health services within integrated community health care settings.

"The training program will prepare our graduate students in evidence-based, family-centered and culturally sensitive psychological services in an integrated health care setting," said Dr. Cindy I. Carlson, chair of the College of Education's Department and principal investigator for the grant. "The major goal is to improve the training of Spanish-language speaking and ethnic minority future providers in order to better address the needs of underserved children and families in Central Texas.

"'Integrated health care' refers to various health care professionals working together in a single setting to permit treatment of mental and physical problems in a coordinated manner. Increasingly, research indicates that physical, emotional and educational problems are interrelated in children. Whereas funding to support the training of other health professionals in community health, such as physicians and dentists, has been available for a long time, psychologists have not benefitted. This grant indicates an increasing appreciation of psychologists as health professionals."

According to Carlson, Texas ranks first in the nation in number of uninsured children and 47th in per capita mental health funding. Only 3 percent of Texas youth who suffer from serious emotional disturbance have been receiving care in community health care clinics, where there is a severe shortage of mental health care providers. In the U.S., it's estimated about 84 million people receive no mental health care services, or reduced services, because of the shortage of community mental health care providers.

Three doctoral students in The University of Texas at Austin's Department of Educational Psychology will enter the Graduate Psychology Education program this year, with nine to receive stipends and go through the two-year training program over the next two years. The three students starting this year are Kiara Alvarez, Yessenia Marroquin and Luis Sandoval.

"This program builds," said Carlson, "on recent partnerships that have developed between the University of Texas System, Seton Family of Hospitals, the College of Education's Texas Child Study Center, Dell Children's Medical Center and the Department of Educational Psychology. This program broadens the partnership to include the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and Austin Travis County Integral Care.

"Our educational psychology students will be trained in seminars with medical students who are preparing to be child psychiatrists. All of these groups, institutions and individuals working diligently together will mean that health care in Central Texas, and beyond, will continue to improve."