By Madeline Thigpen | Report for America
Clark Atlanta University (CAU) is the recipient of a four-year $1.8 million grant from the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program for Professionals.
The grant was awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Two CAU professors applied for the grant together. Dr. Ken Shell, associate professor in the School of Education and Dr. Kenya Jones, associate professor in the Whitney M. Young, Jr. School of Social Work.
The grant money will be used to pay a stipend for 28 students in their clinical year of studies working toward a Master of Social Work or a Licensed Professional Counselor.
“For many black folks entering mental health, the full-time unpaid internship is a barrier,” Shell said.
In the past Shell has had students who’ve worked full-time while they complete their internship.
“I really wanted to find money so they didn’t have to do it the way I had to do it,” Shell said.
Jones said they are working on putting together a multi-disciplinary list of students to participate this year.
“We want to take a holistic approach,” Jones said. “Our goal is to add to and enhance the programs we already have.”
Both professors are excited for the recognition the BHWET grant will bring to their respective schools. CAU can also use the grant as a recruiting tool in the future because at most universities graduate internships are unpaid.
“We’re trying to get more black practitioners in mental health,” Shell said.
In addition to the relationships CAU already has with mental health facilities, the HRSA also provided the university with a list of high-needs mental health facilities in metro Atlanta.
“With this grant, we will be providing training to 28 students in the first year, but those students can spread the information further and touch more people when they move on in their career,” Jones said.
Students in their clinical year are close to graduation. Jones and Shell said they hope the BHWET program will set them up well for their job search.
While Jones and Shell spearheaded the application, both emphasized that it was a collaborative process. They worked with their deans in the School of Education and Whitney M. Young, Jr. School of Social Work and the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs at CAU throughout the grant writing process.
The BHWET Program begins July 1. CAU will receive funding until 2025 when they will be eligible to reapply for the grant.
This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.