Funded with a 3-year award from the Health Services Research Administration (HRSA), the Integrated Behavioral Health Scholars (IBHS) Program at the UT Austin School of Social Work is a comprehensive training program that will prepare culturally competent master’s level social work students for careers as clinical behavioral health specialists in primary care settings that serve high need/high demand populations. HRSA funding will be used specifically to recruit and retain bilingual and/or bicultural students from underserved populations; develop new field placement slots in clinics serving high need/high demand populations; and, ultimately, to build the workforce by preparing students for careers in settings where there is a high need for integrated behavioral health care among underserved populations.

Selection priority for admission into the IBHS program will be given to students who meet the following criteria:

  • Highest priority will be given to applicants who are bilingual (Spanish/English) and bicultural to match the majority of underserved clients in central Texas
  • Priority will also be given to members of other underrepresented groups   and to those who are veterans, active duty military, or their immediate family members.

Individuals accepted into the IBHS Program receive:

  • Multidisciplinary educational opportunities that focus on building clinical skills and working with interprofessional teams of social workers, physicians, nurses, and pharmacists in integrated behavioral health care settings
  • Coursework and hands-on training and coaching in the use of current evidence-based behavioral interventions in primary care settings
  • Clinical social work field placement in an integrated behavioral health care setting with underserved populations.
  • Yearly stipend of $15,008 (up to two years)

Need for the IBHS Program
In addition to having one of the fastest growing populations in the nation, Texas has the highest rates of uninsured residents and the second largest number of individuals living in poverty. Latinos, who have a higher incidence of chronic disease and are less likely to have access to private health insurance in comparison to non-Latino Whites, comprise 40% of the state’s population. Texas is also home to the third largest number of military veterans, a population with documented behavioral health needs. Additionally, in Central Texas the overall population is aging as more retirees relocate to the area and more people reach retirement age; aging populations experience more chronic conditions and other health related issues and consume a larger portion of health care resources.

Yet at the same time, Texas suffers from a critical shortage and misdistribution of health care professionals, especially in behavioral health.  Primary health care settings serve as “medical homes” that provide low-income and uninsured patients with access, continuity and integration of health care services. The lack of bilingual, racially diverse, and culturally competent behavioral health practitioners poses a particular challenge for primary care settings, which are transitioning to integrated health care models designed to improve patient outcomes and manage health care costs.

Students who complete the IBHS Program will be trained in cutting-edge and culturally competent brief behavioral interventions that have a strong evidence base for effective use in primary care and other medical settings. The IBHS Scholars will be well prepared to enter the workforce as behavioral health specialists that serve high need/high demand populations, work comfortably and expertly as part of health care teams, and likely train future students in this pursuit.

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Health Services Research Administration (HRSA), award # M01HP25200