© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
WESA's radio signal is down in New Baltimore. We are working on a fix.

Pitt Receives Grant To Address Workforce Shortage In Adolescent Mental Health Care

The Squirrel Hill Health Center is one of one the sites where Pitt social work graduate students will field train to provide child and adolescent mental health services. The program is the result of a $1.87 million federal grant to grow the pediatric mental health workforce.

The shortage of mental health professionals who work with kids and teens went from bad to worse in the U.S. during the pandemic. To help address this problem, the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work has received $1.87 million in funding from the federal Health and Human Services Administration.

“The pandemic basically threw gasoline on the fire,” said Pitt social work professor Danny Rosen. “Social isolation, the anxiety about what was happening. The environment just created a tremendous level of need.”

Rosen, who’s research focuses on barriers to health care, said part of the reason for this shortage is that while graduate school is expensive, the salaries mental health practitioners earn are modest. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reports that the median salary for social workers, which includes therapists, was $51,760 in 2020.

As a result of these market forces, it might take families months to find their child appropriate mental health care.

“The desk at Western Psych is overrun,” said Rosen. “There’s been significant increase in depression, in anxiety around young children, around adolescents.”

The funding, via the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training grant, is part of a federal effort to grow the number nation’s mental health clinicians, which was unable to meet the needs of American children even before the pandemic.

Starting in 2022, the grant will provide one-time $10,000 stipends over a period of four years to more than 100 graduate students. (For Pitt’s two-year Master of Social Work program, tuition is $11,765 a semester, or $47,060 total.) Stipend recipients will do field work, and take specific courses that focus on children and young adults.

Graduate students who receive these stipends will do their field training at one of several sites in the Pittsburgh area. These might include Homewood Children's Village, Adolescent Medicine at UPMC, and the Squirrel Hill Health Center.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.