Feature

Twenty-three psychology programs received federal funding in the latest round of Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) grants to help build training and education programs that encourage health-service psychologists to work with underserved populations, such as minorities, children and victims of abuse.

Eighteen grantees funded during the first GPE awards last year also received renewed funding from the government agency that supports GPE--the Bureau of Health Professions. Another seven grants were also awarded solely for geropsychology training.

In this current batch of GPE awards, new grantees secured a combined $4.5 million--not including the more than $2 million for an additional year for the 18 original grantees. The congressionally funded program was created in 2002 through the advocacy of APA's Education Directorate and the championing of Reps. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Typically, grantees use the monies to support trainee stipends, faculty, curriculum development and demonstration programs. Funding for the 23 new grantees will run through July 31; funding for renewed grants will run to April 30 (see the complete list of winners).

"This year's GPE winners represent the largest and most diverse group of psychology graduate programs and training sites nationwide to be funded," says Nina Levitt, EdD, APA's director of education policy. "I expect the impact on the targeted populations in underserved areas, during and after the multidisciplinary training, to be significant. In the near future, there will be a noteworthy increase in the number of psychologists trained and placed with special populations."

The 18 original GPE winners, first funded in 2002, received renewed funding to continue their innovative training programs for underserved populations. Here is a closer look at how three of these programs have used their GPE funding.

Howard University

Howard University's psychology department, since securing its first GPE grant in 2002, has been using it to eliminate cultural barriers to health care and the health disparities that African-American communities face.

In its first year of funding, the department teamed with the university's psychiatry department to train psychology graduate students in a variety of interdisciplinary health programs at Howard University Hospital, the nation's only private African-American academic medical center.

The psychology department's main initiative, a program called Swinging Bridges, aims to ease the transition for African-American psychiatric patients at the hospital from inpatient to outpatient mental health services and to close a gap in their access to care.

The project promotes collaboration among psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and nurses. Together, they provide such services as psychoeducational programs to teach patients' families about mental illness, inpatient treatment goals and the need for outpatient care. Students are also working with endocrinologists in the diabetes clinic, providing prevention interventions to minority adolescents with diabetes--sharing, for example, dietary and other behavioral tips to increase treatment compliance.

"This grant allows for psychologists to move into the health-care arena in a positive way," says Linda Berg-Cross, PhD, a Howard University psychology professor who co-directs the GPE project with Dominicus So, PhD. "In places like Howard University--a historically black university--we really need the GPE funds to achieve the goal to train psychologists to help eliminate health disparities."

University of South Florida

The Louis De La Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) at the University of South Florida has also been using its GPE monies to help the African-American community. The program has focused on improving the mental health services offered at a public charter school for African-American elementary students at high risk for emotional and behavioral problems, such as depression or attention difficulties.

The grant money is enabling four clinical psychology interns each year to work collaboratively with an ethnically diverse team of registered nurse practitioners, pediatricians, psychologists, teachers, parents or caregivers, and clergy. Each intern completes psychological evaluations of several children and then consults with the interdisciplinary team on planning and implementing treatment.

For this population, the FMHI model stresses culturally appropriate nonmedical interventions, such as play therapy and classroom-based consultation that may involve family members or the child's social support system. For example, the team might invite a child's coach or Sunday school teacher or pastor to sit in on case consultation meetings and discuss how to help the child concentrate and manage the classroom environment better.

"Many of these parents don't like to have their children on medications, and they are averse to labeling their children with a diagnosis," says Rick Weinberg, PhD, clinical associate professor and internship director at FMHI. "So we work a little harder to honor and respect their wishes and culture."

FMHI is also using the funding to expand the Tampa Bay area's capacity to serve high-risk African-American children. The team has completed two Tampa-area continuing-education workshops attended by psychologists, physicians, nurses, educators and clergy on how to work collaboratively with this population.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Through the GPE-supported psychology internship program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, students learn about intervention and prevention methods for low-income, ethnically diverse urban Philadelphians at risk for health problems.

Interns work with a variety of underserved populations, such as the homeless, foster care children, HIV-positive adolescents and aggressive young girls. Each semester, the interns complete one of six community-based training rotations, covering such areas as violence prevention at an elementary school or assessment of and interventions with adolescents who are HIV-positive or have AIDS at a primary-care center.

"The initiatives were designed to extend our services in the city of Philadelphia to highly underserved populations," says Paul M. Robbins, PhD, who co-directs the internship program with Thomas J. Power, PhD.

The interventions are based in medically underserved communities where 75 percent of children live in poverty and more than 95 percent are racial or ethnic minorities. To better serve the communities, interns collaborate with trainees in psychiatry, pediatrics, social work, nursing and education.

"We want our interns to learn how to provide services to medically underserved populations in a culturally sensitive and effective way," Power says. "The socioeconomic status and race of the families they serve may not be similar to the trainees. But they need to understand the unique needs of these families, limitations of existing services-delivery systems and alternative strategies for providing care for these populations."

Further Reading

For more information on GPE, visit www.apa.org/ppo/edppo.html.

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