Professor awarded $1.9 million dollar grant to train the next generation of social workers

University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor Valire Copeland received a $1.9 million dollar grant to prepare social workers to meet the needs of individuals, across the life-span, in integrated health care settings in rural areas and other medically underserved populations. The award comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program.

The project connects the School of Social Work, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Division of Family Medicine, and major health care providers of primary care in the region to provide training for social work students in sites that also offer behavioral health services. 

The grant builds on Dr. Copeland’s previously funded Juanita C. Evans and Ida Maud Cannon Fellowship programs, and will provide funding to 112 second-year Master of Social Work (MSW) students over four years.

The students will be placed in newly created and expanded concentration field placement sites in integrated community health care organizations.  The sites will be in rural and medically underserved areas which surround Allegheny County, including urban locations in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, as well as rural sites in Westmoreland, Beaver, Butler, Washington, and Armstrong counties.  Some of the settings will be Federally Qualified Health Centers where integrated behavioral health training in psychiatry, behavioral pediatrics, psychiatric nursing, substance use disorder prevention and treatment, marriage and family therapy, and occupational therapy is occurring. 

”The history of social work practice in healthcare dates back to the 19th century” says Dr. Copland. “It’s wonderful to build on the incredible legacy of those who created such a valuable space for social work practice in health care by preparing the current generation for the future of health care.”

In addition to Principal Investigator and Project Director Dr. Copeland, co-investigators include School of Social Work Associate Professor Ray Engel, and University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, Jeanette South-Paul.