LSU School of Social Work Awarded $2.5 Million to Expand Mental Health Services in Louisiana Schools

New research collaboration between the university and the Louisiana Department of Education will enhance mental health services for students in high-need schools across the state.

 

Social workers

Louisiana public schools have a 1,277:1 student-to-social worker ratio, which is over five times the ratio recommended by the National Association of Social Workers. The LSU-Louisiana Department of Education collaboration aims to address this and other challenges for mental health services in K-12 schools over the next five years.

 

BATON ROUGE, August 10, 2020

LSU School of Social Work (SSW) has been awarded a 5-year, $2.5 million grant from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) to expand and strengthen the state’s school-based mental health workforce. The Louisiana School Social Work Expansion Project (LaSSWx), a partnership between LSU SSW and LDOE, will provide enhanced mental health services to students in high-need K-12 schools, help build the school-based mental health workforce to provide students with multi-tiered systems of support, and improve school culture and climate to better prepare students for employment, responsible citizenship, and fulfilling lives.
 
Funded by the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program, LaSSWx will work with schools in 12 Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in southeast and central Louisiana. LaSSWx aims to increase the number of social work graduate student interns in schools and will build on existing federally funded efforts to expand evidence-based interventions by providing professional development and technical assistance for schools. Practicing school social workers will be recruited to serve as field supervisors and receive free continuing education training and a stipend. LaSSWx will also create a social work position within LDOE and a School Social Work Chapter of Louisiana.
 
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projected significant shortages for behavioral health practitioners, estimating a lack of 16,940 mental health and substance abuse social workers, 8,220 clinical counseling and school psychologists, and 13,740 school counselors. While some of these projections include practitioners who work with both adults and children, they indicate substantial gaps in behavioral health services for children and adolescents, especially in schools.
 
During the 2015-2016 school year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collected civil rights data that suggest a shortage of mental health professionals who provide services to at-risk students in U.S. public schools. While the national student-to-psychologist ratio was below the recommended ratio, student-to-counselor, student-to-social worker, and student-to-nurse ratios fell far behind best practices established by professional organizations. Most notably, the national student-to-social worker ratio was 2,160:1, as compared to the 250:1 recommended by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). According to LDOE data for the 2018-2019 school year, there were 561 social workers employed by local education agencies across the state of Louisiana, amounting to about half (52.2%) of the mental health workforce in schools. With 716,293 students enrolled in Louisiana public schools, this indicates a 1,277:1 student-to-social worker ratio, which is over five times the ratio recommended by NASW.
 

Brandi Conrad

Principal investigator Brandi Conrad is an assistant professor of professional practice and coordinator of the Social Work Practice in Schools Specialization at the LSU School of Social Work.

 

LaSSWx is under the leadership of principal investigator Brandi Lamana Conrad, assistant professor of professional practice and coordinator of the Social Work Practice in Schools Specialization at LSU SSW. LaSSWx co-investigators represent its organizational partners:

  • Jahanna Bailey, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, LSU SSW
  • Laura Ainsworth, Research Associate, LSU Social Research & Evaluation Center

Special appreciation goes to additional people at LSU whose devoted support and assistance were vital in the creation and successful award of LaSSWx:

  • Cassie Dinecola, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, LSU SSW
  • Judith Rhodes, Director, LSU Social Research & Evaluation Center
  • Terri Michel, Director of Sponsored Program Accounting, LSU College of Human Sciences & Education


About SSW
The LSU School of Social Work (SSW) aspires to be a leading school of social work, a vibrant center of intellectual development, a leader in promoting and supporting diverse communities, and an advocate for an integrated and inclusive model of social work, all within a learning environment that supports best educational practices. The SSW offers Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Child and Family Studies, Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Social Work, online MSW, and PhD in Social Work. SSW is part of the College of Human Sciences & Education. For more information, visit the School of Social Work.


About CHSE
The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, the School of Library & Information Science, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs, 18 graduate programs, and 7 online graduate degree and/or certificate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,120 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is committed to improving quality of life across the lifespan. For more information, visit the College of Human Sciences & Education

 

Vickie King
LSU College of Human Sciences & Education
vking@lsu.edu

Mary Woods
LSU College of Human Sciences & Education
mpwoods@lsu.edu

Elsa Hahne
LSU Office of Research & Economic Development
ehahne@lsu.edu