A $606,226 grant will help train Fresno State social work students to serve Spanish-speaking children, adolescents, transitional aged youth (ages 16-25) and their families in areas where Latinos are a majority of the population.

The three-year grant is funded by the Health Resources and Service Administration Bureau of Health Professions and will be implemented locally through Consejo: A Latino Behavioral Health Practice Project for Central California. Consejo is a collaboration between Fresno State Master of Social Work students and behavioral health agencies in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties.

“The Department of Social Work Education recognizes the tremendous need for training culturally and linguistically competent behavioral health professionals,” said Irán Barrera, co-principal investigator for the project. “These professionals will go on to serve the expanding and youthful Latino population, especially among those who experience numerous behavioral health disparities.”

Lobby.days.3.smallA total of 40 graduate students who express intent to work with the Spanish-speaking population and meet other grant criteria will be selected for the program. Each student will be involved in the program for one year and will receive a stipend of $10,000. Students will be placed in behavioral health settings with a large population of Spanish-speaking clients and will be guided by bilingual field advisers.

Barrera said there is an emphasis on providing services to this targeted population in areas where it is needed most, which include the counties of Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare.

“The Hispanic population is growing, but not in the bilingual behavior care workforce,” Barrera said. “Right now, Hispanics face barriers in accessing care due to the language barriers and lack of cultural awareness that currently exists. Providing more Spanish-speaking clinicians who are able to identify cultural elements of prevention, intervention and treatment of behavioral health is critical in eliminating mental health care disparities among Hispanics.”

The project includes curriculum that mirrors Barrera’s own research. Coursework will explore how clinicians can use a humanistic approach and how that will impact retention and effectiveness of client care. The project also involves a bilingual student curriculum in English and Spanish.

“We are in a mental health shortage area and are in dire need of clinicians in behavioral mental health programs who speak Spanish,” Barrera said. “This project is the first of its kind and we expect this to lead to something even bigger to meet the needs of the Central Valley.”

TR.Ceaser.Chavez.2014.smallAccording to data from the Pew Hispanic Center, two-thirds of Hispanics live largely in five states, with California being one of them. Hispanics make up a majority of the population in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties. The Latino population is the fastest growing minority population in the country.

“We are very excited about this grant and the faculty research and student learning that will occur,” said Virginia Rondero Hernandez, chair of the Department of Social Work Education and Consejo’s co-principal investigator. “It is the first federally-funded behavioral health workforce development award granted to the University and is being referred to as cutting-edge by our funders. Our partner agencies view the Consejo project as innovative and timely for our region.”

The project will welcome its first cohort in November and will conclude with its second cohort in fall 2017.

To learn more about the Consejo project, contact Iran Barrera at 559.278.0398.

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