$ 1.4 million grant will support free behavioral health services for underserved youth


Federal grant of $ 1.4 million to professor at Commonwealth University of Virginia will support training of graduate students in VCU Primary care psychology training collaboration, which provides free behavioral and mental health services to underserved populations in primary care settings in the Richmond area health safety net.

The grant from the US Health Resources and Services Administration to Heather jones, Ph.D., associate professor at Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, will expand the program and help address the significant unmet behavioral health needs of various patients, with a focus on rural youth and racial and ethnic minority youth in central Virginia.

Jones, who co-leads the Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative with Bruce rybarczyk, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychology, said the grant will allow the program to expand its partnerships with three clinics: a VCU safety net clinic serving primarily low-income black youth and their families, a family community medical clinic serving large numbers of Latinx immigrants and a community hospital serving rural central Virginia.

“Together, these clinics provide more than 100,000 annual visits to underserved people,” Jones said. “I would also like to note that an important goal of these federal grants is to increase the number of black and Latin behavioral health care providers trained to work in integrated care clinics – a goal that I am firmly committed to, as than BIPOC. [Black, Indigenous and people of color] clinical psychologist. “

Heather Jones, Ph.D.

The grant, “The VCU Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative: Meeting the Behavioral Health Needs of Diversed Youth and their Families”, follows a similar price from the Health Resources and Services Administration in 2019. This grant expanded the program to include training in substance abuse testing and treatment, behavioral health services to complement medical treatment for opioid use disorders, and telehealth services to primary care clinics in rural Virginia.

Since 2010, the Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative has trained more than 120 doctoral students, responding to a shortage of professionals in the treatment of children and adolescents with behavioral health problems. This is the largest federally funded training collaboration for graduate psychology students working in integrated care in the country and had representatives from a previous visit from the White House administration to d ” learn more about their model of care.

With the current grant, Jones said, the collaboration will help meet the critical mental health needs of underserved youth amid the pandemic.

“There are children, disproportionately from black and Latin families, who have suffered significant loss and disruption to their normal lives during this pandemic,” Jones said. “The rates of anxiety and depression among young people across the country have increased. Our patients and their families here in Central Virginia tell us about the significant stress they have been through over the past year. Therefore, this is such an important time to focus on youth mental and behavioral health and to work with families to increase resilience and focus on family strengths.

In addition to Jones, the project will involve faculty supervisors Rybarczyk; Kaprea johnson, Ph.D., associate professor at Department of counseling and special education in the VCU School of Education; and Carla Shaffer, Ph.D., a former VCU and community practitioner.

The collaborative is also supported by medical teams led by Romesh Wijesooriya, MD, assistant professor of general pediatrics at Richmond Children’s Hospital at VCU; Stephanie Crewe, MD, associate professor and head of the adolescent medicine division at CHoR; and Marc Ryan, MD, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at the VCU School of Medicine.

Jones said the team is also looking forward to working with Community Memorial Health CEO Scott Burnette to implement telehealth care for rural youth in Central Virginia, who have very limited access to behavioral health care. .

Alyssa Ward, Ph.D., a psychology graduate from VCU and clinical director of behavioral health at the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, will serve as a consultant for the grant and conduct workshops for student clinicians on compassion fatigue and trauma. secondary, two critical issues that contribute to burnout among behavioral health practitioners.

Over the four-year term of the grant, it will fund the training of 24 clinical psychology and counseling psychology students and 24 school counseling students.

“We look forward to continuing to grow the behavioral health workforce and serve our community for years to come,” Jones said.

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