George Mason University Department of Social Work Receives $1.9 Million Training Grant to Expand Integrated Behavioral Health Workforce


The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded the George Mason University Department of Social Work a $1.9 million four-year Behavioral Health Workforce and Training (BHWET) grant to help improve access to behavioral health services for under-served and rural populations. With grant funding, Mason’s Department of Social Work will launch the Mason Community-Academic Partnerships in Behavioral Health (CAP-BH) program to increase access to quality behavioral health services in high-demand and high-need populations by developing community-based partnerships and training students in a transdisciplinary team-based care model.  Each year, the CAP-BH program will provide financial assistance, in the form of stipends, for 29 MSW students in their specialization year who will develop a deeper understanding of the effects of violence and trauma in addition to the foundational knowledge provided in the Master of Social Work curriculum, which focuses on the social determinants of health and a holistic model of care delivery.

The Department of Social Work will leverage and expand on its existing partnership with the Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinics, where students and faculty serve uninsured and refugee communities in a team-based model that delivers primary care, mental health care, and connects patients with necessary services to address holistic social determinants of health. The CAP-BH program also seeks to increase the number of experiential training sites where students can develop competencies in primary and integrated care settings and promote technology integration into care delivery and training programs. 

“There is a growing and urgent demand for social work professionals who can address behavioral health needs in a holistic, transdisciplinary way,” says Emily Ihara, PhD, MSW, FGSA, professor and chair of the Department of Social Work at Mason’s College of Health and Human Services. “The negative effects of violence and traumatic experiences on children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth are exacerbated by a fragmented system of care, especially for marginalized and underserved groups. The CAP-BH program will allow us to prepare cohorts of Master of Social Work students in a trauma-informed system approach where they will learn and practice trauma-specific evidence-based interventions that address the complexity of violence and trauma during key developmental periods.”

The Mason Department of Social Work offers a prime location in Northern Virginia, a diverse study body, a robust curriculum in cultural competencies, a strong network of community partners—particularly in hard-to-reach populations—and extensive collaborations with existing practicum sites.

Associate Professor Denise Hines, PhD, will be the program evaluator and will co-direct the project with Associate Professor and Department Chair Emily Ihara. The project team will include Associate Professor Carol Cleaveland, PhD, LSW, as the scholar training lead; Associate Professor Victoria Kirsch, MSW, MA, PhD, as the community practitioner training lead; Assistant Professor Evelyn Tomaszewski, MSW, ACSW, as the recruitment lead; and Assistant Professor Kanako Okuda, DSW, LCSW, as the field education training lead.