Federal Grant Helps WCU Reach Clients at Regional Opioid-Use Treatment Centers

In early September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded more than $1 billion in opioid-specific grants to help combat the national opioid crisis. West Chester University is the only academic institution in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and one of only 21 academic institutions across the country awarded a grant. With Pennsylvania sitting fourth in the list of states with the highest number of opioid-overdose deaths, the regional need is immediate.

WCU has been awarded $297,970 from the US HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program. The University is partnering with three regional health centers that provide opioid and other substance use disorder treatment, other behavioral health services, and primary care to medically underserved populations: Community Health and Dental Care, Inc., Pottstown; Philadelphia FIGHT, Philadelphia; and Project H.O.P.E., Inc., Camden, N.J. Each of these health centers will receive $400,000 over the two-year term of the grant, bringing total funding for this supplemental grant to $1,497,970.

Nadine Bean, retired Professor in the Graduate Social Work Department is Program Founder for the grant, which supplements a $1.6 million BHWET grant she secured in fall 2017. “We had 16 original sites with the base grant and we have expanded to about 40 now,” Bean reports.

The supplemental grant extends the breadth of the original grant through which MSW and/or MEd School Counseling students who are completing their final field placements in integrated health centers or Title I schools receive stipend support and advanced training. The supplemental grant is directed specifically to placing MSW students at health centers that provide opioid and other substance use disorder treatment in counties that have a high opioid overdose death rate.

This academic year, 30 students are receiving stipends of $10,000 each as they complete field placements. Bean notes that stipends will go to a total of 116 MSW or MEd School Counseling students who are committed to training in integrated care for medically underserved populations. Of that 116, 15 MSW students will receive stipends to complete their field placements at one of the three partnering health centers which offer opioid and other substance use disorder services with medication-assisted therapy.

“We will establish long-term partnerships to enhance training in integrated care” says Bean. “Ultimately, we hope to increase access to and quality of services, which in turn will improve health outcomes, throughout the region.” A regional advisory board and training center will complement the continuing interprofessional education for field supervisors, faculty, students, and community partners.

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