Dr. Scott Wilks Granted $1.92M to Enhance Social Work Labor Force in Louisiana

Dr. Scott E. Wilks, associate professor in the LSU College of Human Sciences and Education, has been granted a four-year, $1.92 million funded project from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The program, titled Louisiana State University School of Social Work BHWET Program: Targeted Enhancement in Integrated Behavioral Health Care across the Lifespan, enables social work students to receive stipends between the years 2018 and 2022 as they train for social work careers in integrated behavioral health settings. Dr. Wilks’ proposal highlighted an emphasis on two particular age groups: youth aging out of the foster care system and older adults. Both population groups are particularly at-risk for negative behavioral health outcomes.

“In addition to training from behavioral social work experts, the program has interdisciplinary training partners from LSU Manship School of Mass Communication and Southern University School of Nursing,” Dr. Wilks explained. “Interdisciplinary training is important because behavioral healthcare is typically integrated across multiple health disciplines.”

Research conducted for the proposal indicated that Louisiana citizens are especially vulnerable to behavioral health issues. In most cases, they are more susceptible than the national average to harmful, behavioral health factors including poverty, violent acts, substance abuse, and suicide. The state constituency is also aging dramatically; therefore, quality integrated healthcare among older adults will be a priority within the program.

“I truly hope we meet our primary goal of remedying the surging demand for trained, integrated behavioral healthcare workers across our nation and especially in Louisiana,” Dr. Wilks said. “Our intent is that the vast majority of our LSU BHWET Program alums remain in Louisiana to work with our state’s citizenry most at-risk for behavioral health disorders.”

In 2008, Dr. Wilks was named a Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work by The John A. Hartford Foundation, the nation’s largest private philanthropy dedicated to healthy aging among older adults. In 2015, he was named Fellow with The Gerontological Society of America, the country’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. In order to pursue his passion and create the newly funded BHWET program, Dr. Wilks has collaborated with a number of groups, including LSU School of Social Work, LSU College of Human Sciences and Education, the LSU Life Course and Aging Center, Southern University School of Nursing, and Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area (Baton Rouge).

“I remain grateful for the support from LSU and the Greater Baton Rouge community. My academic and service colleagues have enabled me to serve its caregiver and care recipient constituencies for over a decade,” Dr. Wilks said.