Touro College has been awarded a four-year $1.7 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to offer master’s students from the Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) and School of Health Sciences (SHS) interprofessional training and paid fieldwork targeted to help at-risk youth.

Program applications are now open for fall 2021 for advanced students earning their master’s degrees in social work, clinical mental health counseling and occupational therapy.

At-risk youth are children, teens and young adults whose lives are impacted adversely by such conditions as poverty, homelessness, unstable family and school environments and are therefore seen by experts as less likely to successfully transition to adulthood. Early interventions are considered crucial for them to meet the challenges they face.

The grant is geared to provide help especially in medically underserved areas, where the risks are multiplied, and community resources are often scant or non-existent.

“This program will motivate and educate new professionals specifically trained to deliver concrete quality services to those at risk for behavioral health challenges,” said Dr. Eric Levine, director of continuing education and development at the GSSW, who spearheaded the grant proposal. “Youth at risk are among this nation’s most vulnerable populations. The program importantly emphasizes interdisciplinary and team-based training and the recruitment of a future workforce that is devoted to serving high need and high demand areas.”

Over $9 million in five years

Touro is one of a number of schools in the United States and in New York State to participate in the $66 million Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program (BHWET) grant. The award is the fourth from HRSA obtained by the GSSW in the past five years, bringing the total amount of Touro’s HRSA funding to over $9 million since 2016.

Eligible students chosen for the BHWET program will take specialized courses and work with underserved youth aged 12 to 24 through internships in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island and Westchester, where the GSSW and SHS have established field placements. Stipends will be provided each year to 13 advanced year MSW, nine SHS Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) and five SHS Occupational Therapy (OT) students.

All three groups will learn to provide care in teams, collaborating with one another in classes, seminars and in their fieldwork.

“We are honored to participate in this program,” said Touro College and University System (TCUS) president Dr. Alan Kadish. “We have made interprofessional education a priority across all schools, departments and programs. As one of the largest healthcare educators in the country, Touro is uniquely positioned to train students to tackle together the serious problems of youth suffering from – or at risk of developing – mental and behavioral health disorders and disabilities caused by violence, abuse, trauma, drugs, and other harmful events.”

Expanded collaboration for schools of social work and health sciences

The BHWET grant is the second in which the GSSW is collaborating with the SHS. In 2019, Touro received $1.3 million from HRSA as part of the government’s new Federal Opioid Workforce Expansion Program (OWEP), which it currently shares with SHS’ CMHC program. Social work and clinical mental health counseling students are being trained together to provide prevention, treatment, and recovery services for those suffering from opioid use and other substance use disorders in high need and high demand areas.

Applicants for the BHWET program must meet the minimum set of academic standards and submit a statement that describes how they plan to contribute to the field of at-risk youth and any experience they have had in the field. After graduation, they should seek to work in a high need, high demand community that provides services to at-risk youth.

Social work applicants interested in the BHWET program should contact Dr. Eric Levine at eric.levine@touro.edu. Clinical Mental Health Counseling applicants should contact Dr. Kimberly Asner-Self at kimberly.asner-self@touro.edu. Occupational therapy applicants may contact Dr. Virginia (Ginny) Koenig at virginia.koenig@touro.edu.

This program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1.774 million with no percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit www.HRSA.gov.