$1.8 Million Grant Will Improve Mental Health in Austin and Travis County

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas — A grant of nearly $1.8 million will support innovative, multi-disciplinary training, using programs from across The University of Texas at Austin campus, to address the mental health needs of people in Travis County with low incomes, without insurance or from historically underserved communities.

The grant was awarded through a collaboration between the Dell Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, School of Nursing, and College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology. Integral Care, along with other partners, will provide clinical training sites, supervision and guidance for students and residents. Integral Care is the local mental health authority for Travis County, supporting adults and children living with mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Through the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the university will receive roughly $440,000 a year for four years to support a cross-campus collaborative called the Integrated Behavioral Health Scholars program. With this support, 84 graduate and professional students — working in fields ranging from social work to nursing to psychology and psychiatry — will be trained to deliver culturally and linguistically competent behavioral health care.

“The people of Travis County deserve the best mental health care in the world,” said Dr. Steve Strakowski, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Dell Med. “Providing that care requires that the university train the best psychiatrists and therapists in the world and assure that they can take care of people regardless of their culture or the language they speak. With this grant, we can create unique programs that give world-class training to local providers.”

This training will cover a wide variety of primary and specialty care models, integrating different forms of care in ways that improve the overall health of patients, help providers at all levels deliver the best care possible, and create more value for the community. The Department of Psychiatry received a separate grant from the Hogg Foundation that will support exploration of cross-disciplinary training models, including the integration of peer-support specialists into the team.

“The vital goal of this far-reaching effort is to increase the number of culturally and linguistically competent doctors and therapists caring for Travis County residents with mental illness,” said Luis Zayas, dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. “This is the health care area with the greatest shortage of skilled professionals — both in our community and across the state. We’re all focused on addressing that very real problem.”

The program is designed to encourage work in the community, especially with people who are most in need of help and who have the hardest time accessing it. Much of the training will be provided in clinics run by community partners, especially Integral Care.

“We’re excited to work with our University of Texas partners to bring their collective resources to address the mental health needs of our community,” said David Evans, chief executive officer of Integral Care. “Integral Care brings 15 years of experience providing integrated mental health care and primary health care, which creates a strong foundation for training the next generation of health care professionals. Working together, we can improve the health of people in Travis County.”