OT, social work faculty earn $1.8 million behavioral health grant

Contact: Joel R. Krauss and Jeanne Baron
Headshot, Dr. Ann Chapleau.


Headshot, Dr. Jennifer Harrison.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A four-year, $1.8 million grant for behavioral health workforce education and training will support a Western Michigan University project that aims to increase the number of thoroughly trained treatment providers who work with the region's underserved and vulnerable community members.

Dr. Ann Chapleau, associate professor of occupational therapy, and Dr. Jennifer Harrison, assistant professor of social work, received the grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The funding will support WMU's Interprofessional Peer Education and Evidence for Recovery project, IPEER, a joint initiative of the Department of Occupational Therapy and School of Social Work.

Chapleau and Harrison created IPEER to enhance interdisciplinary education for social workers, occupational therapists and peer specialists, and to expand the number of these professionals who are available to serve rural and medically underserved communities in southwest Michigan.

Broad coalition of partners

The IPEER project connects the educational training and direct service provided through WMU's College of Health and Human Services with numerous off-campus partner organizations where students complete their required fieldwork.

Organizations where that collective training takes place include the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health and the Recovery Institute of Southwest Michigan, as well as community mental health programs and their providers in Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Cass, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Ottawa, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties.

Harrison says the new grant funding will boost the ability of WMU and its partners to prepare students for interprofessional behavioral health practice as well as to provide innovative training that will strengthen the behavioral health workforce in southwest Michigan.

"The majority of the funding will be used to provide stipends to occupational therapy and social work master's students in their final-year field placements at our partner organizations," Harrison says. "Twenty-eight students will be eligible for $10,000 stipends each year. This will remove a significant financial burden from both the University and our students and allow the students to focus on their research and to make the most of their final-year clinical experiences."

Partner as well as student training

Chapleau adds that the new grant funding also will aid WMU and its partners with their collaborative efforts to provide free workforce development training for all staff at the partner organizations. IPEER will focus on the specialty training areas of motivational interviewing, recovery orientation and implementation of evidence-based practice.

"We'll be incorporating quantitative and qualitative measures of student learning and workforce transformation, so there will be an overall improvement in the quality of training provided at the sites," she predicts. "The free provider training may also make it easier to procure more fieldwork sites for WMU students. And, in turn, we hope to increase the number of students who decide to work in behavioral health practice settings after graduation."

More information about the IPEER program is available online.

Questions about the program or fieldwork opportunities in occupational therapy or social work may be directed to Chapleau at ann.chapleau@wmich.edu or (269) 387-7242 or Harrison at jennifer.harrison@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2556.

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