The School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) currently addresses one of the nation’s most prominent behavioral health issues – a shortage of critical mental health services for veterans and their families who may be experiencing PTSD, depression, and suicidality. The VA system is in need of clinical social workers and others, noting that it has hired 5000 professionals over the past five years across the nation. VA positions will continue to flourish as employees move towards retirement leaving an understaffed and relatively new workforce in place.
In 2013, SP2 received a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA) to launch VAMC – P.E.A.R.L.S.: known as the Veterans Program in Mental Health Education Assessment, Recovery, and Leadership for Social Workers. P.E.A.R.L.S. is the only educational program of its kind in Schools of Social Work in the tri-state area.
SP2 continues the specialized program in a new form, now known as the Cohen Veterans Network Scholars Program.
Significance of the Need
There is a changing mental health care environment in which high rates of mental disorders and suicide among military personnel and recent veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) have been reported. Among 103,788 OEF and OIF veterans first seen at Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities between 2005 and 2010, 25% received mental health diagnoses including the most common: PTSD, Substance Use Disorder (SUDS), and Depressive Disorder. Moreover, 41% of all 837,458 separated OIF and OEF veterans eligible for VA health care have enrolled in the VA since 2002. This is historically high for the Veterans Administration (VA). In contrast, only 10% of Vietnam veterans enrolled in the VA, making the VA the single largest health care provider for OIF and OEF veterans as compared to Vietnam veterans.
The Cohen Veterans Network Scholars program will prepare five 2nd Year MSW students, annually, to provide services to veterans and their families who are experiencing mental health challenges with the goal of improving quality of life. The program is comprised of two courses, a specialized internship, and extracurricular training including Rotational Field Seminars and Standardized Patient Clinical Training for a solid academic and clinical foundation.
Interested 2nd Year MSW students must complete an application form and an interview for consideration. This is a highly competitive program and thus not all qualified applicants may be selected.
An educational stipend is available for those selected.
Applicants with a military background and those interested in a career path in the VAMC are encouraged to apply.