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Finding Solutions

TFT2014 2015Growing up is difficult to begin with, but growing up with a behavioral health disorder is especially challenging. Social workers can help smooth the transition from childhood to adulthood, but only if they’re fully prepared. A new field placement program aims to train MSW students to better serve youth and families at risk for mental illness, substance abuse, and destructive or violent behaviors.

Training for Transitions: Preparedness for Behavioral Health Social Workers (TFT) is funded by a three-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration made possible by the Affordable Care Act. The program allows College of Social Work (CoSW) graduate students to enjoy and learn from a host of new opportunities in behavioral health at practicum sites ranging from clinics to government offices. These placements are highly coveted, and students are required to complete a special application for consideration. Selected students receive a $10,000 stipend and the opportunity to gain invaluable experience.

Cassaundra Rogers, an advanced-standing MSW student, didn’t shy away from the competitive application process: “I wanted to apply for it because it’s selective, so I felt it would be an honor, and I work in integrated healthcare, so this would expand my knowledge and make me more effective at what I already do.”

Rogers’s placement at Providence Health Internal Medicine Downtown puts her in contact with un- and under-insured patients, getting them free medical care when needed and assessing other needs. Transitional-age youth, which includes ages 18-25, are often in need of preventative care and education.

One significant challenge of working with transitional-age youth is having difficult conversations—Rogers often finds herself in the awkward position of having to educate them on safe sex. Being assertive and convincing these youth that they’re not invincible is a tricky task, so Rogers is happy her field work is giving her opportunity to practice. Despite the challenges of her work, Rogers is confident that she is making a difference in the lives of transitional age youth. “It’s such a harsh age if you don’t have anyone looking out for you,” and Rogers enjoys being available for those youth.

Mollie Williamson, a second-year MSW student and director of the non-profit Girls Rock Columbia, also works with transitional-age youth in her field placement at the Richland County Public Defender’s Office. “The Richland County office is excited about doing client-centered care,” Williamson says, and her role is to “more competently inform them about what services are available” in order to help attorneys make more informed decisions that can lead to better outcomes for their clients. Williamson’s chief duties are direct service and program development, and she is currently working on developing assessment tools that will aid lawyers in getting a better background on their clients, including any potential mental health or substance use issues.

For Rogers and Williamson, the TFT program is broadening their learning and teaching them something new about behavioral health. “So many surrounding factors that affect people’s lifestyles and health go overlooked if you don’t have specific training,” says Williamson. Rogers feels that her field experience has taught her that “you have to know each aspect of the problem so you can treat the person, not just the disease,” and behavioral health offers the whole picture of a person. As these students are learning, social workers are uniquely suited to seeing that picture.

Jeremy MartinTransitions to Mentoring

As a preceptor, recent alumnus Jeremy Martin is finding solutions to the challenge of helping students learn to make meaningful connections with clients and integrate life and classroom experiences. When Martin crosses the yard of Transitions, a homeless shelter in downtown Columbia, he’s followed by a trail of cheerful hellos. Attired in a neatly pressed dress shirt, he is easily distinguishable from the clients around him. However, perhaps his own “diverse past,” as he calls it, makes clients more willing to view him as both an advocate and an example of breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Jim Ward Field Instructor Award 2014 - Lettie Pablo-Rivera, MSW

Outstanding Students in Field 2014 - Steve Shumate and Ellen Mabe

BSW Educator of the Year 2014 - Jennifer Bosio-McArdle, MSW, Field Placement Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty

As a field instructor for the College of Social Work, Marguerite O’Brien shares with students her commitment and passion for fitness and well-being.


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