by Elizabeth Clarke
Louisiana Christian University was awarded $396,753 from The Rapides Foundation Healthcare Occupations Program for much-needed social work and nursing projects. The Social Work Behavioral Healthcare Education and Workforce Improvement Project will increase the number of Masters of Social Work graduates. Over the three years, the project is expected to graduate 75 master level social workers with a Behavioral Healthcare specialization and a commitment to work in the nine-parish service area for two years after graduation.
Sheri Duffy, the MSW program director at LCU said the Social Work Department’s Behavioral Healthcare Education and Workforce Improvement Project, funded by The Rapides Foundation, is a joint effort of the BSW and MSW Programs at LCU to recruit, train and retain future licensed social workers in Central Louisiana, specifically in the behavioral health arena.
“This grant allows LCU programs to offer stipends to students which will aid them in continuing their education and in return students receiving stipends will commit to field practicums and future employment in agencies with behavioral health opportunities,” Duffy said.
Duffy and Bobbye Roberts, BSW program director, partnered to create the project. “The need for licensed social workers in behavioral health is significant in the Central Louisiana area. Research shows short and long-term job growth for Social Workers in this region in the areas of Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Healthcare,” they said.
“Social workers are crucial to the provision of these services and are skilled and licensed to provide proper assessment, diagnosis, treatment, therapy, and supportive services to individuals, groups, families, and communities. This grant provided by The Rapides Foundation is vital because it provides the BSW and MSW Programs at LCU the opportunity to fulfill this workforce need in CENLA by providing highly qualified, trained professional social workers.”
The BSW stipend for senior social work majors is a way to ensure that the student pursues the MSW degree at LCU in the behavioral healthcare specialization. Those receiving the stipend at the MSW level will receive necessary financial support for their education and clinical training in the behavioral healthcare arena. Ultimately, both BSW and MSW graduates will be equipped to fulfill positions in underserved communities in this immediate region.
“The financial commitment of The Rapides Foundation is deeply appreciated on multiple levels,” said LCU President Rick Brewer. “The Louisiana Christian University Mission and Vision provides the “Why” behind the “What” in terms of equipping students to be lifetime learners, leaders, and servants. Clearly, this approach aligns with the focus of The Rapides Foundation partnering to foster human flourishing while improving the health status of
The second project to receive funding from The Rapides Founation will increase the number of nursing graduates by focusing on strategies to retain, graduate and prepare traditional and accelerated nursing students to pass the Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX).
“The funds provided by this grant will facilitate the preparation of more graduates who will take and pass the NCLEX licensure exam,” said Dean of Nursing Marilyn Cooksey. “This is especially important at this time with the documented shortage of nurses and the impact of COVID-19 on the numbers of registered nurses.”
The multi-year grants were awarded through the Foundation’s Healthcare Occupations Program, which seeks to increase the number of healthcare graduates prepared to meet the basic level of licensure or certification required by employers for initial hire of high- demand healthcare occupations.
“Access to quality healthcare services is important to reduce health disparities and improve health status,” said Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “We know that the shortage of qualified healthcare professionals is often cited as one of the main barriers to people receiving care. These grants will address the issue by increasing the number of health professionals who graduate and are prepared to provide critical healthcare services within the region.”
The Healthcare Occupations Program Grant supports nonprofit, accredited colleges and universities to add and expand current healthcare program offerings and concentrations to meet the critical workforce needs of local employers, and specifically addresses shortages in the three occupational fields of nursing, behavioral health and allied health.
“The two Nursing and Social Work grants from The Rapides Foundation will yield a fantastic return on investment,” said Henry Robertson, coordinator of sponsored programs at LCU. “A nine parish region will see more and better prepared nurses and social workers. Taken together, the new professionals so well-trained at LCU will meet and
exceed all expectations in the acute health and behavioral health care needs sectors of our economy. For years in the future, these grants will produce dividends in the form of more expert care, compassion, and service to every individual requiring general and specialized care. The community will find that this expenditure at LCU is a particularly wise and prudent investment for a more healthy future.”