OT, social work faculty earn $1.8 million grant

Dr. Ann Chapleau, associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, and Dr. Jennifer Harrison, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, recently received a four-year, $1.8 million grant for behavioral health workforce education and trainingFunding from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will support the Interprofessional Peer Education and Evidence for Recovery (I-PEER) project, a joint project of the Department of Occupational Therapy and the School of Social Work.

Chapleau and Harrison

The I-PEER project connects the College of Health and Human Service with Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health, Recovery Institute of Southwest Michigan and other public providers, to prepare students for interprofessional behavioral health practice, and to enhance the behavioral health workforce in southwest Michigan through innovative workforce development.

"The majority of the funding will be used to provide stipends to OT and social work master's students in their final year field placements in these communities," says Dr. Harrison. "It removes financial burden from the University and students, and allows students to focus on their research and to make the most of their final year clinical experiences."

Through the funding, 28 students will be eligible for $10,000 stipends each year. In addition, students and behavioral health professionals will receive free training in collaboration with partner organizations. I-PEER will focus on specialty training areas of motivational interviewing, recovery orientation, and implementation of evidence-based practice.

"One of the project goals is to procure more fieldwork sites for our students ," says Dr. Chapleau. "And, in turn, we hope to increase the number of students who return to work in behavioral health practice after graduation."

An additional outcome from the free provider training will be overall improvement in the quality of training provided at the sites. The Goal Attainment Scale (GAS), a measure of client and student learning and attainment, will be utilized along with other quantitative and qualitative measures of student learning and workforce transformation.

Potential scheduling conflicts initially arose as there are differences in timing and duration of clinical experiences in the two programs. To make the project work, the Department of Occupational Therapy and School of Social Work have demonstrated agility and flexibility, adjusting requirements and schedules to make the collaboration work for students and community partners.

Watch the College of Health and Human Services website for I-PEER program updates.