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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Darden College Receives $1.6M Grant to Train Behavioral Health Providers

By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University's Department of Counseling and Human Services in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies recently received a $1.616 million, four-year grant designed to increase the number of paraprofessional behavioral health providers.

The money will fund community-based experiential training for undergraduates on opioid and substance use disorders prevention, treatment and recovery services in integrated care settings, with a focus on the behavioral health needs of children and youth at risk for mental health disorders. The grant comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program,

Additionally, the project aims to build students' capacity to engage in interprofessional collaborations, address intimate partner violence and use trauma-informed care, telehealth and digital health literacy to enhance treatment.

"We worked very hard in pursuing this grant and are thrilled to be able to support and enable our students to provide vitally needed care in medically underserved areas of Hampton Roads and across Virginia," said Mark Rehfuss, the program director. "Since our program is offered both fully online and on campus, students will be able to graduate with less debt and be more fully prepared to serve those most vulnerable and in need."

The grant will provide tuition assistance of $3,000 and a stipend of $5,000 to up to 105 human services undergraduates during their internship semester. Students, who willl have to complete an application process to particvipate in the program, will also receive new MacBook laptop computers.

It is just the second federal grant that has been awarded to the human services program at ODU.

This grant expands on a $900,000 federal award two years ago that provided a $3,000 tuition credit for human services students during substance use internships in similar high-need and high-demand areas. Rehfuss is also the program director for that grant.

"This new grant will allow us to continue our work in training students while also developing their mental health skills to work in underserved areas," Rehfuss said. "So, it is building on the great work we have already been doing with our students and providing more funds to them directly."

Also working on the project are program Co-Director Narketta Sparkman-Key and co-principal investigators Jennifer Simmons, Kristy Carlisle, Chaniece Winfield, Shuntay Tarver, Jamie Hartsfield and Jason Sawyer.

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