Today, Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04) announced that Sacred Heart University, Fairfield University, and University of Bridgeport will receive $4,904,990 in grant funding from the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program (BHWET). This Health and Human Service program works to increase access to quality mental health services by increasing the number of mental health professionals.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the number of Americans experiencing difficulties with mental health,” said Himes. “In 2020, we saw a nearly 30% increase in drug overdose deaths, partially caused by pandemic-related stress and lack of access to mental health services; the shortage of mental health professionals is a major contributor to this lack of access. As our communities move past COVID-19, a lot of the trauma remains, which is why ensuring there are enough mental health professionals in our area is more urgent than ever. I’m pleased to see federal dollars come to the district for such a worthy cause and I’m committed to increasing federal funding to address the mental health crisis.”  

“Fairfield University is committed to the professional development of men and women who serve others,” said Dr. Christine Siegel, Provost of Fairfield University. “We are at our best when we do this work in partnership with the community and in-service to those most in need. We are proud to receive this HRSA grant which will support a diverse student population in our excellent graduate mental health programs in ways that contribute to the well-being of individuals and families in Bridgeport and other local communities.” 

“The COVID 19 pandemic has highlighted how factors such as job security, health insurance, and healthy food impact health outcomes, and how difficult it can be for many in marginalized communities to access high quality medical and behavioral health care,” said Dr. Julie Berrett-Abebe, LICSW, Assistant Professor, Family Therapy & Social Work, School of Education & Human Development. “Funding through the BHWET grant will allow us to better train our behavioral health graduate students to work in innovative integrated care models in underserved areas. By collaborating with community partners and harnessing the strengths of the community and professional team members, we hope to contribute to reducing disparities and improving health in Connecticut.” 

“Clinical Researchers developed these therapies that are proven to help people, but dissemination to community clinics is slow,” said Dr. Allison Buller, Program Chair and RP! Project Director at the University of Bridgeport. “This grant will enable us to train a cohort of Clinical Mental Health Counselors, Radically Prepared to serve the community using the highest quality of care.” 

“Sacred Heart University School of Social Work has been awarded a federal grant in the amount of $1.78 million for four years from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program for Professionals,” said Dr. Victoria A. Osborne-Leute, MSW, Assistant Professor Sacred Heart University, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Social Work. “The program, titled ‘Making IMPACTS: Integrating Mental Health into Primary Care: Training for Social Work’ will increase access to quality behavioral health services among underserved and high need areas and populations. In collaboration with SHU’s Master of Public Health, Physician Assistant, and Volunteer and Service Learning Programs, the project will involve the development and expansion of field placements/internships to build the behavioral health workforce with community-based partners in integrated, interdisciplinary behavioral and primary care settings.” 

According to the Health and Human Services’ Health Resources & Services Administration, the BHWET Program for Professionals aims to increase the supply of behavioral health professionals while also improving the distribution of a quality behavioral health workforce and thereby increasing access to behavioral health services. A special focus is placed on the knowledge and understanding of children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth at risk for behavioral health disorders.