UAA receives $1.5M to increase social worker workforce
by Green & Gold News |
Alaska leads the nation in alcohol-attributed deaths, with nearly 1 out of 10 deaths in the state caused by use. When considering Alaskans ages 20 to 49, it is more than 1 out of 4 deaths. These are findings from a four-year study published by JAMA Network Open in November 2022. A unique partnership spearheaded by Recover Alaska is working on solutions, which include increasing the number of homegrown and clinically licensed social workers in the state.
A $1.5 million grant to the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Social Work will significantly increase enrollment capacity, establish a pathway to licensure for graduates, add faculty and staffing, and offer continuing education to maintain clinical licenses. The grant was coordinated by Recover Alaska and includes direct funding from Recover Alaska and public and private partners, including Rasmuson Foundation, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Providence Alaska, Southcentral Foundation, the Anchorage Assembly, Alaska Department of Health and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.
Adding to the workforce of social workers is expected to provide the needed care to combat alcohol misuse while also improving access to mental and social service needs of Alaskans across the state.
“The chronic lack of qualified providers prevents Alaskans from accessing timely behavioral health services and we’re ready to fix that,” said Tiffany Hall, Recover Alaska executive director. “We have a great program at UAA’s School of Social Work, and with more funding we’ll be able to graduate more Alaskans into these critical roles.”
Recover Alaska’s 2021 statewide needs analysis identified reducing the workforce gap of social workers as its top recommendation to improve the health of Alaskans. Within a year, the nonprofit brought public and private funders, including the State of Alaska, health care employers and philanthropists, together to raise $1.5 million.
“The incredible thought-partnership and creative vision of Recover’s Governance Council deserves the credit for this innovative project. Leaders in philanthropy, service provision and education worked around the table to determine how to leverage their collective resources to bring real change to Alaska,” said Hall. “We’re working toward Alaska’s future, and that includes training Alaskans who are uniquely qualified; have an understanding of the state’s diverse cultures; economic and social conditions; remoteness and geographic challenges and best prepared to serve long term in Alaska. The council knew the stakeholders who would benefit from a robust workforce and from there, we came together.”
"UAA is grateful to receive the necessary resources to expand enrollment capacity for the School of Social Work, and thankful for the community partners who worked to make this happen," said Sean Parnell, UAA chancellor. "This funding will allow the program to better meet the workforce demand for qualified social work professionals in Alaska."
The increased funding will allow the university to expand its social work program to eventually include up to 80 full-time students working toward a masters degree with clinical licensure.
The collective grant was announced at a Giving Tuesday event on the UAA campus. Official comments from funders included:
Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska
“When private and public funders come together like this, it allows organizations to continue focusing and building on what they know is right for the community,” said Paul Hollie, head of Premera Social Impact. “UAA’s School of Social Work has developed an incredible workforce expansion program. Combined with Recover Alaska’s great work, the ripple effect of their successes will be felt in Alaskan communities for years to come.”
“Our state is in critical need of more health care professionals and partnering with the University of Alaska to build up our workforce is a top priority for Providence,” said Ella Goss, MSN, RN, Providence Alaska chief executive. “Developing a homegrown workforce is an important long-term strategy for Alaska’s health care industry. That is why Providence is honored to contribute $150,000 over three years to support the expansion of UAA’s social work program.”
Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority
“Trust beneficiaries experiencing substance use and mental health challenges are currently underserved in Alaska, in large part due to workforce challenges,” said Steve Williams, CEO of the Trust. “We are so pleased to join our funding partners to advance this university initiative that will increase the workforce and capacity in our behavioral health continuum of care, and ultimately improve health outcomes for Alaskans.”
About the UAA School of Social Work:
The UAA School of Social Work is dedicated to advancing social work practice in Alaska through baccalaureate and master’s education, research and service. Social work is a profession committed to ethical and research-informed practice that assists individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities; advances social, economic and environmental justice; and engages in policy practice. The School of Social Work offers the following degrees and certificates: Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work, Occupational Endorsement Certificate in interpersonal child welfare, and a minor in social welfare studies. Learn more at www.uaa.alaska.edu.
About Recover Alaska:
Recover Alaska is a statewide action group with a mission to reduce excessive alcohol use and related harms across Alaska, and a vision of Alaskans living free from the consequences of alcohol misuse and empowered to achieve full potential. To learn more about Recover Alaska, access research and data, or read about Alaskans in recovery, visit recoveralaska.org.