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Palo Alto University Receives $6.7 Million from State to Address California’s Behavioral Health Workforce Shortage

  Grants Expand Capacity for Training Social Work Professionals and Funds 50 Counseling Degrees for CA County Employees      Palo Alto University (PAU) has been awarded two workforce development grants from the State of California, totaling $6.7 million. The grants address the significant behavioral health workforce shortage in California through the development of a program to train new social workers and by funding the education of 50 current county employees seeking mental health counseling degrees.   “Our region, state, and country are facing a crisis in access to well-trained mental health professionals,” said Erika Cameron, Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at PAU, a university dedicated to psychology and counseling. “With these important grants, Palo Alto University will continue to play a critical role in addressing the behavioral health workforce shortage in California and across the country by training new mental health professionals, especially those from under-represented communities or those serving under-resourced counties.”    The first grant is a “Social Work Education Capacity Expansion Grant” in the amount of $1.5 million from the California Department of Health Care Access and Information. The grant aims to increase the supply of staff trained to provide behavioral health care through the development of new social work programs, especially programs aiming to train students to serve children and youth.   The funds will support the expansion of PAU’s degree offerings to include a prospective master’s degree in social work. Grant funds will support the hiring of qualified faculty and staff to begin the development of the program.   The second award is a $5.2 million five-year contract from the California Mental Health Services Authority to prepare and educate 50 current California county employees to earn a mental health counseling degree from PAU. There will be two cohorts of county employees who will be selected from rural counties with exceptionally inadequate mental health services and from under-represented communities to support the goals of diversifying the mental health profession.   “With an unprecedented shortage of mental health professionals, California has to find innovative ways to meet the mental health needs of its residents,” said Lucero Robles, Quality Assurance and Compliance Director for the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA). “Palo Alto University, with its deep experience in training psychologists and counselors, is an ideal partner in helping to expand the behavioral health workforce.”    The contract will cover tuition and fees for the 50 county employees, faculty expansion as needed to maintain quality, faculty/student accreditation ratios, staff to assist in the administration of the program and clinical training, and funds to support staff and faculty to develop a peer support and professional development series for students to gain an in-depth understanding of working in the public behavioral health system.