The College of Family, Home and Social Sciences is currently involving its students in treatment of the mental health community through the AmeriCorps program. Through this opportunity, trained students help administer clinical treatments to mental health patients in the Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Start: August 15, 2014
End: August 14, 2015
- Sponsor: Utah Commission on Service and Volunteerism
- Principal Investigator: Charlene Clark
- Website: https://socialwork.byu.edu/Pages/Field/AmeriCorps.aspx
Started over 20 years ago, the AmeriCorps program is a web of local community projects that stretches across the nation. Its focus is to provide opportunities of volunteer service to communities by federally funding local volunteer projects and organizations. Organizations seeking to volunteer in the community create an AmeriCorps program in their own area, and then recruit individuals as AmeriCorps members. Volunteer work in an AmeriCorps program can range anywhere from serving in public schools to assisting after natural disasters to giving aid in public health fields.
The School of Social Work, housed within the College of Family, Home and Social Services (FHSS) at BYU, has been involved with the AmeriCorps program for ten years. Its program director is Charlene Clark, a secretary in the School of Social Work who leads the recruitment of students as members to the volunteer program. The FHSS AmeriCorps program works to increase mental health treatment in Utah. Studies done in the U.S. have shown that there is an extensive gap between those needing mental health care and those who actually receive it. A report given from the Utah State Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health shows that only 29% of adults needing treatment for mental health issues actually received treatment from public mental health services in 2014. For youth ages 12-18, the statistic was even lower at 21%.
Utah is listed as the eighth highest state that fosters the most AmeriCorps members per capita, with Provo ranked as the fourth highest in the mid-size city category. AmeriCorps especially focuses on recruiting young adults as members, so they can gain invaluable work experience as they prepare to enter the workforce. Students participating in the FHSS AmeriCorps program enroll in clinical internship classes, qualifying and licensing them to provide helpful and adequate volunteerism which usual volunteers could not do in mental health agencies. This year, more than 100 students were expected to participate. Students are led by professional, licensed mental health care providers at each of the 26 agencies which BYU students volunteer at. Students only participate in clinical practices that have been evidenced-based, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies, Suicide Risk assessments, and Crisis Intervention. These practices are based on theory and proved through scientific evaluation, as opposed to practices which are founded on beliefs or anecdotal evidence. AmeriCorps members will also lead in mental health prevention and education seminars.
Through their volunteerism, these BYU students continue to lessen the treatment gap that exists in the mental health community. The FHSS AmeriCorps program has three main goals: to give service to approximately 2,800 new patients each year, increase the ability of volunteer sites to treat more individuals, and further the education of its students. Students who become members in the AmeriCorps program accumulate many hours of work experience, have the opportunity of working with patients and professionals in their desired fields, and even receive an Education Award based on the number of hours they volunteer. The program endeavors to engage students in volunteer work and assist them in building a professional network in the mental health field.