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Partnership including School of Education wins $1.9 million grant for counselor training

Project aims to prepare school counselors for collaborative work with health professionals

The School of Education will join two other UNC-Chapel Hill units in a program aimed at helping prepare school counselors and health professionals to work collaboratively to provide better support for youth and their families.

The effort is funded by a new $1.92 million grant from the Health Services and Resources Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The four-year grant will provide $10,000 stipends for 116 students in School Counseling, the School of Social Work, and the School of Medicine’s Department of Allied Health Sciences. The grant is expected to support 16 School Counseling students.

The project — titled UNC-PrimeCare4Youth — provides participating students specialized coursework, targeted workshops, and self-directed learning focused on trauma-informed care, cultural and linguistic competency, suicide prevention, digital behavioral health, and community engagement. The new project is modeled after UNC-PrimeCare, a program centered in the School of Social Work that provides specialized training in behavioral health and collaboration with other health professionals.

“Mental health professionals need to be prepared with the knowledge of how to work collaboratively with various health care providers in order to go into the workforce prepared to provide coordinated care, which leads to better outcomes for patients,” said Meghan Walter, Ph.D., program coordinator for the School of Education’s School Counseling program and a co-principal investigator on the project. “There is also an increased awareness of the pervasiveness of trauma and therefore a need for all health care providers, including behavioral health care providers, to be versed in trauma-informed approaches.”

As UNC-PrimeCare4Youth trainees, students will also serve in internships in settings such as primary care clinics, community health centers, schools, public health departments, hospitals, vocational rehabilitation programs, and other high-need areas.

The project will include a new course — to be taught by faculty from the three schools — which will cover topics related to interprofessional teamwork and collaboration, trauma-informed care, cultural and linguistic competency, and competencies in tele-health competency, Walter said. Some of the content may be integrated into other School Counseling courses, she said.

Trainees also will produce an end-of-year capstone project and present their work at a symposium during spring semesters. Research related to educational and practice outcomes will be collected during participants’ internships.

Lisa de Saxe Zerden, Ph.D., M.S.W., senior associate dean for Master of Social Work Education at the School of Social Work, is the principal investigator of the project. Judy Schmidt, Ed.D, of the School of Medicine, is another co-principal investigator.

UNC-PrimeCare4Youth is modeled after $4 million of previously funded HRSA initiatives to train and expand the behavioral health workforce in integrated settings.

More information about UNC-PrimeCare4Youth is available here:

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By Michael Hobbs