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School of Social Work receives grant to establish Minnesota Center for Mental Health

Minnesota Center for Mental Health leadersThe Minnesota Department of Human Services Mental Health Division has awarded a $900,000 grant to the School of Social Work, the College of Continuing Education, and the Department of Psychiatry to establish the Minnesota Center for Mental Health.

The mission of the center is the preparation of a strong, well-trained workforce delivering evidence-informed, integrated mental health services. "The emphasis will be on fostering mental and behavioral wellness for all Minnesotans," said co-investigator Peter Dimock, faculty member in the School of Social Work.

The center will help meet the increasing demand for clinical competence and for holistic, integrated care that uses evidence-informed services, Dimock explained, "so the people of Minnesota can count on the services they receive regardless of where they are or what situation they find themselves in."

In addition, as more mental health and substance abuse treatment programs gear up to work with clients with both conditions, the demand for trained professionals is likely to increase, Dimock said. Thus, a major goal of the center is to develop a continuing-education credit certificate for professionals who want to work in this area.

The center will be organizing focus groups throughout the state and the tribal communities to help determine objectives to meet that goal, and will create an advisory group that includes other disciplines helpful in facilitating the center's goals.

Other plans include:
• Creating a website and database of resources;
• Publishing an annual report highlighting the center's activities and reporting evaluation data on its effectiveness;
• Distributing a quarterly newsletter featuring articles that provide tips for transforming research into practice;
• Holding an annual conference and periodic webinars featuring experts in the field.

Center staff

The principal investigator for the grant is Julie Rohovit, Ph.D., director of the Integrated Behavioral Health Master's Program in the College of Continuing Education. The degree prepares students to work with people who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental illness.

Dimock, M.S.W., LICSW, and Ken Winters, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the University Medical School, are the co-investigators.

Several other faculty members in SSW will be working on specific projects. Assistant Professor Colleen Fisher will be assisting with the evaluation design; Assistant Professor Patricia Shannon will help with curriculum development related to Trauma Informed Care, and Assistant Professor Katie Johnston-Goodstar will facilitate connections with some of the Minnesota Tribes.

Michael Gonzalez, a faculty member in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education and Human Development, will assist in creating an instrument to measure the effectiveness of the curriculum. Winters and other Psychiatry faculty with specific clinical expertise will support curriculum development and will be available for consultation.

The center plans to hire a director by September 1.

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