WMU secures $1.92 million for interprofessional workforce development

Contact: Joel Krauss

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Adolescent behavioral health needs are at an all-time high. Western Michigan University is meeting the challenge by preparing the next generation of practitioners to meet those needs and represent the diverse communities in our region with a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Three faculty members, Drs. Bridget E. Weller, Carla Adkison-Johnson and Jennifer Harrison, received an award of $1.92 million to support the development of a culturally and linguistically responsive behavioral health workforce.

"It's another thing we can do at Western Michigan University to impact care in West Michigan, ensuring that culturally responsive, recovery-focused and evidence-based services are available where they are needed most," Weller says.

The effort represents an interprofessional collaboration between two colleges at Western, the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Health and Human Services, and is the third HRSA grant awarded to the University to support behavioral health workforce development.

"Shared efforts in counseling and social work make this initiative powerful and allow us to expand the number of youth who can be served at our internship sites from Benton Harbor to Grand Rapids and all of the large and small communities in West Michigan," says Adkison-Johnson, emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of the project.

Drs. Bridget E. Weller, Carla Adkison-Johnson and Jennifer Harrison

This four-year award will support the Interprofessional Peer Education and Evidence for Recovery (I-PEER) program, which was established to provide workforce training in best practices to better serve rural and medically underserved communities in southwestern Michigan. A significant portion of the grant funds will be used to provide direct financial support in the form of $10,000 stipends for Western students in clinical mental health counseling and social work internships.

"We are all excited to continue this work over the summer," says Harrison, interim director of Western's School of Social Work. "There's great passion for this at WMU. We're absolutely committed to ensuring we have representative and excellent behavioral health providers throughout our communities."

A diverse group of I-PEER students will attend innovative, team-based training activities covering topics such as culturally and linguistically responsive care, financial wellness, suicide prevention, assessment and treatment for substance use disorders and Goal Scaling Solutions, an outcome-measurement digital application.

In addition to supporting students, I-PEER will continue to expand meaningful community partnerships in West Michigan to assure the diverse lived experience of adolescents and young adults remains front and center.

Learn more about the I-PEER program on its webpage.

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