UH Program Tackles Shortage of Behavioral Health Workers

GLOBE-Team Training to Help Fill Gap in Workforce

McClain Sampson
McClain Sampson, GCSW associate professor
Jon Schwartz
Jonathan P. Schwartz, associate dean of graduate studies, College of Education

An innovative training program at the University of Houston will address the significant shortage of behavioral health workers in Harris County by training clinicians in both social work and psychology to meet the needs of culturally diverse, medically underserved populations.

The Global Leaders of Behavioral Health Education (GLOBE) Team Training Program is funded by a $1.9 million workforce training grant from the Health Resources & Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Due to a rapidly increasing population and the fact that Texas ranks 50th in state spending for mental health, the state has a shortage of mental health services and professionals. In fact, the ratio of social workers to mental/behavioral health clients is about half the national average.

There is also a shortage of psychologists to provide clinical services.

“This program will fill a gap in the workforce by producing clinicians who have extra training in areas such as motivational interviewing, problem solving therapy and culturally sensitive and bilingual care,” said project director McClain Sampson, associate professor in the UH Graduate College of Social Work.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, 20 percent of children ages 6-18 and 17 percent of adults in Harris County had mental illness. However, Harris County has more medically uninsured areas than any other part of the United States.

“Integrated care is an effective way to improve patient outcomes by tackling multiple issues at the same time,” Sampson said. “And with Houston being a minority majority city, we can be innovators in increasing diversity within the behavioral health workforce in Harris County.”

Each year for the next four, GLOBE-Team Training for Behavioral Health will fund 18 masters of social work students from the GCSW and four counseling psychology doctoral students from the UH College of Education. Students will have the opportunity for field education in the new UH Primary Care Clinic.

“The College of Education is excited to partner with the Graduate College of Social Work in bringing two professions together to learn from each other in service of the community,” said Jon Schwartz, associate dean of graduate studies at the College of Education and a co-investigator on the grant with professor Consuelo Arbona. “This grant will not only provide our students with inter-professional training to increase their marketability, it also will assist our underserved community with increased access to high-quality mental care.”

Since 2012, GLOBE has addressed various specializations in behavioral health training with vulnerable populations. From 2014-2017, GLOBE-Youth worked to increase the number of culturally competent social workers who deliver behavioral health services to children and youth up to age 25. The program has matriculated 118 students since 2012 with an average of 85% employed in Harris County.