New Federal Award to Fund Health Integration and Training for At-Risk Youth

A new training program at the Mandel School aims to close the gap in behavioral health care services for at-risk children and transition-age young adults ages 18 to 25 while preparing social work master’s students for careers in advanced clinical practice.

The training program, known as Health Integration Training Expansion (HITE), is funded by a three-year, $421,000 federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program.

HITE is a new integrated physical and behavioral health training sequence (also referred to as integrated health) that builds upon and expands the strong behavioral health competencies social work students already acquire at the Mandel School. It will prepare students to practice from a more integrated health focus, working with other health care workers to provide comprehensive health care.

Under HITE, up to 30 second-year social work master’s students in the child or adult mental health specialization will receive a training stipend and gain first-hand experience working beside doctors and nurses in several Northeast Ohio agencies doing field work with children and transition-age youth.

HITE reflects the goals of U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Healthy People 2020,” an initiative to eliminate health disparities nationally, said David Hussey, PhD, associate professor of research and co-director of the social work school’s Dr. Semi J. and Ruth W. Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education.

In Cleveland, integrated health approaches are critical because of high poverty levels, poor health behaviors, exposure to violence, and mental health and substance abuse issues, Hussey said.

“The presence of a mental illness is of particular concern for transition-age youth, because the illness often leads to poor outcomes across several areas, including housing, education, employment, social relationships and quality of life. These youth often have long social service histories across multiple agencies, such as child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health,” Hussey added.

HITE leverages and expands strong connections with premiere health providers in Cleveland, including the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, The MetroHealth System and Neighborhood Family Practice.

Each student will complete hands-on experience in a clinic or agency setting as part of their field work and advanced curriculum courses focused on health, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, or children, youth and families—all populations treated by local health centers. Field and course work will focus on social worker competencies in the areas of mental health, addictions, dual disorders, trauma treatment, violence and risk assessment (self harm), and integrated health practice. Students are also required to present a professional development seminar for peers addressing integrated health needs of at-risk youth.

For more information about HITE, contact David Hussey, Associate Professor (