Behavioral Health Scholars Program (BHSP)

Brandon Thomas

The United States is facing a public health crisis in addressing the behavioral health needs of children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth. Southwest Pennsylvania has been particularly affected by this crisis. Allegheny County, with its concentrated urban center (Pittsburgh) and a high (sub)urban poverty rate, has seen its resources for appropriate treatment for the behavioral health needs of children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth (15-26 yo) stretched to the limit. Behavioral health and substance use problems that are inadequately treated have a significant negative impact on young people’s ability to successfully achieve developmental milestones involving education, employment, and the formation of healthy interpersonal relationships. These negative effects, coupled with the consequences from the social determinants of health, have far-reaching, detrimental outcomes into adulthood.

Application Deadline

March 1- MSW Specialization Year

March 11- MSW Advanced Standing 

Application Link

Program Benefits

Training Stipend:  $10,000

Field Placement Options    

BHSP field sites will be in diverse community settings that provide interprofessional prevention and treatment services for children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth with behavioral health needs. Training sites will span the continuum of settings that address the behavioral health needs of young people ranging from traditional mental health treatment facilities to healthcare settings to educational sites.

Examples of field sites include:

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC)
  • Expect Respect or Middle Schools
  • Community-based agencies
  • Pediatric and Adolescent Health Practices 

Field placements are structured to require students to be placed on an interprofessional team of providers.

Program Learning Objectives

The BHSP Fellow will:

  • Build skills in the identification, assessment, and diagnosis of behavioral health needs of children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth.
  • Learn evidence-informed interventions (e.g., Expect Respect, motivational interviewing, trauma informed care) to address gender based violence and mental health conditions.
  • Gain knowledge of interprofessional and integrated treatment models to address the behavioral health needs of young people in a variety of settings. 

Participation Commitments

Ongoing participation is critical to the success of this training program. Students are required to:

  • Complete 720 hours of field work at designated BHSP agencies
  • Complete all paperwork, clearances, and trainings required by the field agency
  • Participate in all evaluations and reports for the BHSP Fellowship
  • Complete required coursework toward the Mental Health Certificate or the Integrated Healthcare Certificate
  • Attend a monthly BHSP seminar (meeting) with their peers in the Fellowship. Attendance at these seminars is mandatory and will count toward students’ total field practicum hours. Seminars are intended to provide insight into various interventions and topics related to supporting youth. They are not exhaustive. Students are also required to complete evaluations after seminars.

Seminar topics may include:

  • Interprofessional learning opportunities
  • Telehealth technology for behavioral health treatment with youth
  • Diagnosing co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders using the DSM-5

(NOTE: topics and speakers will vary each year. This is a sample.)

Required Courses

In addition to the MSW core curriculum and required courses toward either the Mental Health or Integrated Healthcare Certificate, BHSP trainees will complete two required courses: 

  • Social Work Practice with Children, Adolescents, and Transitional-Aged Youth (new BHSP developed course), and 
  • Introduction to Psychopharmacology and Social Work Practice


  • Second-year or advanced standing, full-time students
  • Direct practice specialization
  • Pursuing the Integrated Healthcare or Mental Health certificates
  • Demonstrated strong academic performance

Application Requirements

  1. Updated resume
  2. A brief video (no more than 10 minutes) answering the following questions:
    • What interests you about working with children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth with behavioral health needs?
    • Describe a time when you worked in a setting with people of different backgrounds, skills, or life experiences. What were the challenges of this setting, what did you learn from this experience and how you might incorporate that event into your social work practice.
    • What strengths do you bring that can be engaged in this learning experience?
  3. Statement of Interest
    • In no more than 2 pages, please discuss how this fellowship will help to facilitate you achieving your career goals?
  4. Unofficial transcript
  5. Provide two references including email and phone number. One reference must be from a field instructor or employer within the last two years. Other can be a professor or someone that speaks to your interests in working with this population.

Selection Process

  • Number of positions: 25-30
  • Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of a minimum of 4 Pitt SSW faculty members and 1 staff member.
  • All applicants will be notified of their status (accepted, wait-listed, denied) by April 1, 2024. 
  • Final acceptance into the program is contingent on the student’s interview and acceptance at a designated BHSP field site.


Application Deadline:                                     March 1 Specialization MSW

                                                                       March 11 Advanced Standing MSW

Review of Application Materials:                    March 1-March 31

Notification:                                                      April 1

Candidate Acceptance Deadline:                     April 8

If there are unfilled positions, rolling applications will be accepted and reviewed:  April – July

Rolling application and wait list notification:  August 15th

Waitlist Policy

Once a student formally accepts a fellowship appointment, they will be removed from any other training program waitlist. 

Contact Information

Kelsey Ott-Sudik, MSW, LCSW

BHSP Program Coordinator