Chris Schulz Published

Concord Will Use Federal Funds To Address Mental Health In Schools

A blue Jeep is parked in front of a red brick building, Marsh Hall at Concord University. The building has a small but prominent clock tower at its center, which is set against a bright blue sky. There are a few wispy clouds above the building's left wing.
Marsh Hall at Concord University
Christopher Ziemnowicz/Wikimedia Commons

There is a dramatic need for more social workers in schools, and one state university is creating a program to help.

Over the next five years, Concord University will receive close to $5 million from the U.S. Department of Education Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Program.

The money will help create the CU in Schools program, which will place 40 Masters in Social Work (MSW) students in high-need education agencies across the state to complete their advanced-year field placements.

Scott Inghram, the Masters of Social Work program director and chair of the Social Work and Sociology department, said the program is the result of a collaborative effort.

“We’ve had support from the West Virginia Department of Education. We’ve also partnered with West Virginia State University to try to make this program as successful as we can,” Inghram said. 

Inghram said that upon completion of their placement, graduate students will be employment ready and should be able to practice in the same high need school in which they were placed.

“There are incentives for the students to participate, including full tuition and stipends for their internship or their practicum,” he said. “There’s also incentives for the counties to hire our graduates once they’ve completed our program.”

Shawn Allen, an associate professor of social work at Concord, said the need for social workers is high across the country, but especially in West Virginia. 

“The recommended national ratio for students to social workers in schools is one social worker for every 250 students. In West Virginia right now, the ratio is one social worker for every 15,433 students,” Allen said. “When we saw the opportunity for this funding, we knew that it would be a great way to try to help meet some of that need.”

Social workers provide services to school systems including advocating for students, assessment of student and family needs and therapeutic interventions related to mental health and substance misuse services. 

“When you look at the national data, a lot of the things that they say are missing, social workers can provide,” Allen said. “Our graduates, when they finish our program, they’re employment ready. Really, they can slide right in and help meet that need, linking kids to resources and their families to resources that they might need.”

According to a study released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2022, there was a 23 percent increase in the percentage of children with anxiety or depression in West Virginia between 2016 and 2020.