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UB receives nearly $2 million to expand behavioral health workforce in WNY

From left to right: Timothy Janikowski, associate professor of counseling, school and educational psychology; Yu-Ping Chang, Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Professor of nursing; Christopher Barrick, RIA senior research scientist; Kim Griswold, associate professor of family medicine; Diane Elze, associate professor of social work; Kurt Dermen, RIA senior research scientist. Photo: Douglas Levere

The grant will support training for 22 students each year in rural and vulnerable communities

Release Date: October 5, 2017

“Two of the significant, urgent solutions to mitigate the opioid epidemic are to increase access to proper treatment, as well as increase prevention efforts, both of which will require sufficient, well-trained behavioral health providers.”
Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, associate dean for research and scholarship and Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Professor in the UB School of Nursing

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The University at Buffalo has received a $1.92 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand the behavioral health workforce in underserved communities and combat the opioid epidemic in Western New York.

The four-year grant will admit up to 22 graduate students each year into the HRSA Behavioral Health/Substance Use Disorder Scholars Program, which will provide behavioral health education, stipends to offset living expenses, simulated training, and clinical placements in primary care settings in rural and vulnerable communities.

The program aims to address the disparity in access to clinical care for substance use disorders in Western New York, where the rates of opioid overdoses, hospitalizations and deaths are higher in Erie and Niagara counties than in any other region of the state, according to the New York State Department of Health.

The disparity is partly caused by a workforce shortage in the mental health and substance abuse treatment fields.

“Two of the significant, urgent solutions to mitigate the opioid epidemic are to increase access to proper treatment, as well as increase prevention efforts, both of which will require sufficient, well-trained behavioral health providers,” says Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, principal investigator on the grant, associate dean for research and scholarship and Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Professor in the UB School of Nursing.

The program will encourage students who complete their training in underserved areas to continue practicing in the region after graduation, a method that has proven effective for recruiting clinicians into these settings, says Chang.

Co-investigators on the grant include Christopher Barrick, PhD, and Kurt Dermen, PhD, both senior research scientists in the UB Research Institute on Addictions; Diane Elze, PhD, associate professor and director of the master of social work (MSW) program in the UB School of Social Work; Timothy Janikowski, PhD, associate professor and director of the counselor education program in the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology in the UB Graduate School of Education; Kim Griswold, MD, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB; Tammy Austin-Ketch, PhD, clinical professor and assistant dean for master’s and doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs in the School of Nursing; and Nancy Campbell-Heider, PhD, associate professor in the School of Nursing.

By harnessing the collective expertise of faculty and staff from across disciplines at UB, the program will provide students with cohesive, interprofessional training that will prepare them to deliver integrated prevention and treatment for substance abuse disorders.

“By considering the biological, social, behavioral, psychological and spiritual aspects of addictions, our unique, team-based curriculum will train our students to work collaboratively to provide adequate and comprehensive treatment plans for patients,” says Chang.

Funding will support up to four students enrolled in the psychiatric mental health DNP program in the School of Nursing, up to nine students pursing a MSW from the School of Social Work, and up to nine students studying either mental health or rehabilitation counseling in the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology.

Students will be placed in doctor’s offices, clinics and other local primary care sites within the experiential learning network of the Department of Family Medicine. They will also undergo learning simulations, participate in monthly addictions and behavioral health workshops, and complete online coursework.

The grant will also support the hiring of a project coordinator to oversee student recruitment, coordinate simulations and manage clinical placements. 

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