July 2023

UMB Center for Restorative Change Secures $5.5 Million Grant from the Department of Education to Expand Mental Health Services for Maryland Students

July 17, 2023    |  

The University of Maryland School of Social Work's (UMSSW) Center for Restorative Change has been awarded a $5.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration project.

The grant will fund the expansion of training for school-based mental health service providers to address the critical issue of limited access to quality providers in high-need school districts in Central Maryland. 

The project will expand the number of highly qualified and trained mental health providers, particularly those who identify as Black, African American and/or Hispanic/Latino. 

“It is of paramount importance that we cultivate and empower the next generation of school-based mental health service providers,” said Judy L. Postmus, PhD, ACSW, dean and professor, UMSSW.  “Through this program, in collaboration with esteemed partners across the state, we will ensure the provision of top-tier training and amplify accessibility and affordability for future students, especially students of color. This initiative comes at a crucial time when we are confronted with a pressing shortage of experts in this pivotal field.”

Recent research indicates that 63 percent of all new social workers are white and that, historically, the field of social work has predominantly been composed of white women. A significant component of the lack of diversity in the social work workforce is caused by the financial challenges that minorities and people of color have faced when pursuing higher education opportunities in this field. Recent research has shown that nearly 143,000 children in the state of Maryland have developed anxiety and/or depression due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has highlighted the urgent need to address the lack of access to quality mental health providers in schools. 

“There is a pressing need for more school-based mental health service providers, and UMB’s School of Social Work is stepping up to help meet that need,” said University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS. “With this grant, we are not only enhancing access to vital mental health services, but we also are expanding access for students to achieve their educational and professional goals so that the next wave of practitioners reflects the rich diversity of our state.” 

The Center for Restorative Change has partnered with Coppin State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) to lead the recruitment, training, and development of 105 social work students per year from diverse backgrounds that reflect the communities, identities, ethnicities, abilities, and cultures of the students in our partner schools. The goal is to hire these students as school-based mental health providers to increase access to and the quality of mental health services for students attending our partner schools. 

“We are excited to be able to provide our baccalaureate social work students this opportunity to receive training and experience with in-school social work,” said Shelly A. Wiechelt, PhD, LCSW-C, associate dean and chair of social work at UMBC. “They will be prepared to advance their skills further in the Master of Social Work (MSW) program. Ultimately, they will become part of the school social worker workforce and will make a difference in the mental health of children and adolescents.” 

The UMB Fellowship for School-Based Mental Health is a stipend pipeline from the Bachelor of Social Work degree through the MSW degree. This pipeline will increase the number of trained service providers and create a professional pathway for students interested in school-based mental health services. 

“The greatest barrier for most prospective students of color to attending graduate school is financial,” said Wendy Shaia, EdD, MSW, principal investigator for the grant and executive director of the Center for Restorative Change. Another big barrier for social workers of color is passing the social work licensing exams, which have demonstrated huge racial disparities – not because exam takers are unprepared, but because the test is deeply flawed. This fellowship will support students in overcoming both of those barriers.”

The program has received letters of support from several schools and entities, including: 

  • Coppin State University Department of Social Work 
  • UMBC Department of Social Work 
  • UMB School of Social Work Office of Field Education 
  • Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) 
  • Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) 
  • Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) 
  • Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) 
  • Howard County Public Schools
  • Behavioral Health System Baltimore, Inc. (BHSB)
  • Catholic Charities of Baltimore
  • Sheppard Pratt
  • Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
  • TIME Organization
  • KEYS Development, TA, LLC 

The program will serve six local educational agencies, with Baltimore City Public Schools as the primary partner, serve 105 fellows, hire 50 providers, and serve 10,000 students. The partnership provides targeted training for social work students to ensure that they are fully prepared to meet the diverse needs of students in these communities. The students will receive continuous support and mentorship while completing their degrees, ensuring that they are fully equipped to serve in these critical roles.

This proposal seeks to address the aforementioned challenges and expand the number of highly qualified and trained mental health providers, particularly those who identify as Black, African American and/or Hispanic/Latino, in order to build the local capacity of our high-need partner public schools to meet the needs of youth and their families. 

For more information about the Center for Restorative Change, visit: www.ssw.umaryland.edu/centers--research/swcos/?&.