The College of Education has received a $418,305 federal grant to provide specialized training to 15 educational psychology doctoral students who will be working with integrated health care teams to deliver behavioral health services to underserved populations.
This funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will benefit graduate students who are training for careers as academic researchers or licensed psychologists and who will be joining integrated health care teams in hospitals, community health centers and school health clinics.
"There's a severe shortage of mental health professionals who have the cultural and linguistic competence that Texas demographics require," said Cindy Carlson, co-principal investigator and Department of Educational Psychology chair. "Right now, we're a majority-minority state, with 34 percent of our residents speaking only Spanish at home and the second largest population of undocumented immigrants in the nation. That means we need more bilingual behavioral health providers and more professionals from underrepresented groups.
"Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the U.S. as well and ranks 50th in per capita spending on mental health care. Only about 33 percent of adults with mental illness receive care in Texas, and there are no licensed psychologists in one-third of our counties. The doctoral students we'll be training are going to fill a huge need."
The grant also will fund training for College of Education counseling psychology faculty members in the models and practices relevant to integrated behavioral health, including statistical methods and the most urgent topics and questions facing researchers today.
According to Carlson, it has been rare for integrated health teams to include licensed psychologists, but the trend is reversing. With the integrated approach to health care continuing to gain traction and behavioral health professionals beginning to be acknowledged as essential team members, it's imperative that mental health professionals obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to serve as health care team members.
"Integrated health is care that is patient-focused and that acknowledges the interrelatedness of a person's mental and physical health," said Carlson. "It's delivered by an inter-professional health care team within a single, coordinated setting and represents quite a different approach from traditional health care delivery.
"It is a key component of health care reform and is going to become the 'new normal.' Here in the Department of Educational Psychology, we will develop a curriculum emphasis in integrated behavioral health that meets the broader competencies required to practice and research in integrated health care settings."
This recent HRSA grant that Carlson received is one of only five awarded to universities. It builds on the accomplishments of an earlier, child-focused training grant that she was awarded and expands the training to include adult primary care services.
In addition to offering school psychology courses and training psychologists to work in educational settings, the Department of Educational Psychology provides courses in counseling psychology that prepare graduates for work in hospitals and community clinics. Educational psychology faculty members have expertise in a wide range of health and wellness topics as well as school psychology.