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Social work students to help close Spanish-language mental health gap

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
October 8, 2008


Four Texas State University-San Marcos students in the School of Social Work have been awarded bilingual scholarships to narrow the gap between the need for Spanish-language mental health services in Texas and the availability of trained professionals to meet those needs.L

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health scholarship program is believed to be the first statewide program of its kind.

The four Texas State scholarship recipients are Elizabeth Castaneda of San Marcos, Jacqueline Hanson of Del Rio, Melanie Limon of Kingsland and Lizzette Valles of Hutto.

The foundation awarded nearly $300,000 in the first round of 28 scholarships and has committed up to $1 million for the three-year scholarship program.

Scholarship recipients must attend one of 11 Texas graduate schools of social work that are accredited or pending accreditation by the national Council on Social Work Education. The scholarships cover full tuition and required fees for recipients, who must be fluent in Spanish and English and agree to work in Texas after graduation providing mental health services for a period equal to the timeframe of the scholarship.

“This program was enthusiastically embraced by participating schools and attracted talented, highly qualified students who will increase cultural and linguistic diversity in their higher education programs,” said Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. The foundation is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Spanish is the second-most common language in Texas and was the primary language spoken at home by 6.2 million people in Texas in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Texas’ Hispanic population reached 8.6 million, 36 percent of the state’s population, and was the second largest in the U.S. in 2007. The state’s Hispanic population grew at a faster rate than any other state from 2006 to 2007, with an increase of 308,000 people.

Yet studies have shown populations of color and those who speak a language other than English are under-represented in social work and mental health professions in Texas and elsewhere in the United States. As a result, many people may not have access to mental health services that adequately meet their cultural and linguistic needs.

“Texas faces a critical shortage of mental health professionals, especially those who are culturally and linguistically diverse,” said Octavio N. Martinez Jr., executive director of the foundation. “The foundation’s scholarships are attracting students committed to working in a mental health career while also expanding access to Spanish-language mental health services in Texas.”

The foundation was founded in 1940 by Ima Hogg, daughter of former Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg, to promote improved mental health for the people of Texas. The foundation’s grants and programs support mental health consumer services, research, policy analysis and public education projects in Texas.

For additional information, contact Merrell Foote, Communications Director, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, at merrell.foote@austin.utexas.edu or at (512) 471-9142.