UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare received a $3.4 million Centers of Excellence program grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to fund its new Latino Center of Excellence, a campus press release announced Friday.
The grant — which runs from July 1, 2017, to June 2022 — will be used to help fund the center’s recruitment practices and research opportunities.
Projects the grant could fund include stipends for research and field placements in the Latinx community and strategy development to increase Latinx student interest in behavioral and mental health, as well as academic support at the center, according to Jeffrey Edleson, dean of the School of Social Welfare.
“The idea of the center is to grow the pipeline of Latinx students who want to study social welfare and, in particular, mental health issues within the Latino community,” Edleson said. “Not just study, but actually serve the community.”
Edleson added that the HRSA award is a “capacity-building grant” that will allow the School of Social Welfare to increase Latinx student enrollment, improve the existing curriculum and better support graduate-level and junior faculty research.
The campus Latino Center of Excellence was one of 13 successful applications, chosen as a recipient of the Centers of Excellence program grant for fiscal year 2017, according to Jacqueline Rodrigue, director of the HRSA Bureau of Health Workforce’s Division of Health Careers and Financial Support.
Rodrigue said the Centers of Excellence program award recipients have “demonstrated innovative resource and education centers to recruit, train and educate underrepresented (minorities) and faculty.”
The Centers of Excellence grant program was established in 1987 in part to increase racial and ethnic diversity in health professions as well as to devote attention to minority health issues, according to the HRSA.
“At a time when the nation’s population continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse, its healthcare workforce has been unable to keep pace with these changes,” the Centers of Excellence grant application states. “Diversity in the healthcare workforce is necessary to achieve the goal of high-quality, safe, and accessible care.”
The ultimate goal of the program, according to the HRSA, is to “strengthen the national capacity to produce a quality healthcare workforce (whose) racial and ethnic diversity is representative of the U.S. population.”
Rodrigue added that of this cycle’s Centers of Excellence grant recipients that were awarded to Latinx student programs, UC Berkeley’s is “the only one focusing on behavioral and mental health.”
Edleson said he hopes to sustain the Latino Center of Excellence beyond the five-year period funded by the federal HRSA grant.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to really produce a whole new group of both social workers to work in the community and scholars to study the issues in the community,” Edleson said.