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Students, Faculty & Staff, Community Impact

New HRSA Behavioral Health Workforce Development Grant Awarded to SSW

June 21, 2021

Dr. Janet Liechty standing in hallway of hospital with team members in the background

HRSA recently awarded 1.9 million to the School of Social Work

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently awarded 1.9 million to the School of Social Work (Principal Investigator, Janet Liechty) over four years for continuation and expansion of the BHWELL Scholars Program. BHWELL is funded under HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training for Professionals 2021 grant mechanism to address the mental health workforce shortage crisis in Illinois and across the US.

Under the new HRSA grant, each year for four years the Illinois Behavioral Health Workforce Education, Learning & Leadership (BHWELL) HRSA Scholars Program will again provide 29 MSW and iMSW students the opportunity to receive specialized training and a stipend of $10,000 distributed across their 2-semester field placement. To date, there are more than 85 BHWELL-approved SSW field sites located in HRSA-designated Health Provider Shortage Areas throughout Illinois, including rural, small urban, and urban underserved communities. In addition, Dr. Liechty and her BHWELL team will work closely with the SSW recruitment team to strategically build a pipeline to the profession by focusing outreach and recruitment efforts in several “grow zones” across Illinois that are HRSA-designated mental health shortage areas. These are high-need and high-demand areas with strong potential for building a pipeline involving recruitment from new partner feeder programs (community colleges, BSW programs, health/mental health care systems) to the MSW program and high quality MSW field placements, and then to future employment in behavioral health. This locally sensitive approach will provide opportunities for those living in high needs area to receive quality education and training opportunities while remaining in those areas, and thus contribute to alleviating the shortage of mental health care.

While in training, BHWELL Scholars engage in interprofessional education with students from medicine, nursing, public health, and other health professions to learn team-based care and the integration of health and behavioral health services in healthcare and mental health settings. Under the new grant, scholars will learn evidence-based practices to promote mental health and well-being across the lifespan with emphasis on children, adolescents and young adults at risk, including trauma-informed care, violence prevention, and tele-health modalities.

Multi-site BHWELL Partners on the new grant include Dr. Martin MacDowell from the National Center for Health Professions (NCRHP) at the Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford, and Dr. Hana Hinkle from NCRHP and Illinois Area Health Education Centers. BHWELL Team members in Urbana include Mary Maurer, Anna Keck, Andrea Harris, Kenna Dunlap-Johnson, Vanessa Parker, and Corey Campbell; and collaborators in Urbana and Rockford include Cheryl Street, Hellen MacDonald, Christine Escobar-Sawicki, Min Zhan, Lissette Piedra, Rachel Garthe, Dianne Potts, Vicky Rhine, Terry Ostler, Monica Cherry, Laura Graven, Marie Caldwell, Donna Jeno-Amici and many others.

Under the School’s current HRSA grant, nearly 120 BHWELL scholars will have been successfully trained, with the final cohort of BHWELL scholars graduating in December 2021 or May 2022; each graduate also earns a Certificate in Integrated Behavioral Health. Funding for the current grant was provided by HRSA to the School of Social Work under Dr. Liechty’s leadership in 2017. The BHWELL website, which is currently being updated to reflect the new grant, is at Anyone can sign up there for the mailing list to receive a monthly newsletter with updates from BHWELL scholars, clinical training resources, HRSA resources, and job opportunities relevant to BHWELL training.

Interested students who will enter field in May or August of 2022 may apply anytime on the BHWELL website at (For best consideration apply by November 30, 2021).

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