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Phoenix Children's Hospital partnership brings awareness to mental health

Ten social work graduate students at ASU participate in one of the only programs in U.S. offering instruction on clinical social work with children

Phoenix Childrens Hospital

The front sign above the main lobby at the Phoenix Children's Hospital in Phoenix on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.

A new partnership with Phoenix Children's Hospital and 10 ASU students from the School of Social Work works to foster an environment where students can learn both the clinical and medical sides of social work with children.

Emphasizing the need for mental health professionals in pediatrics, this new partnership combining both mental and physical health is something that Phoenix Children's Hospital and ASU have never worked on together before. 

"ASU's School of Social Work has had interns work with Phoenix Children's Hospital for many years. What makes this program unique and important is the concentration on mental health, because we cannot treat physical health without treating emotional and mental health as well," said Sarah Doyle, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Social Work. 

This year-long program offers the students the opportunity to learn alongside a clinical and medical social worker. They are then able to stay at Phoenix Children's Hospital for two more years as a fellow. 

The partnership between Phoenix Children's Hospital and ASU is helping to streamline the process for those students who are interested in becoming counselors and therapists within the social work field.

As fellows, the students will spend two years doing their required supervised therapy before obtaining their LCSW, meaning after the two years, they would immediately be hired as a licensed clinical social worker. This fellowship offers the required two years of supervision for free. 

Those involved said the program is one of the first of its kind in the country. There are limited options within the social work community for people seeking to become a clinical social worker. There are not many options for students in social work who are interested in this because it can be quite costly, according to Grace Morales, second year graduate student studying social work and one of the 10 interns in the program. 

"I'm most interested in the clinical side of social work because I really enjoy one on one time with the kids and trying to dissect issues and figure out how to best help them," Morales said. "I was very excited when I found out with this partnership that we have the chance to be with both a medical and clinical social worker so I could see what they both do."

Previously only nine interns had this opportunity to partake in learning about both the medical and clinical fields of social work; however, the program has added another intern for this year. 

According to Rhonda Baldwin, manager of social services at Phoenix Children's Hospital and a faculty associate at the School of Social Work, the program has been re-engineered to give students a realistic view of these realms of social work while still centering family care as a main focus.

"It is important to highlight how groundbreaking this is, because if or when this model is proven successful, I believe it's going to become a trickle effect throughout other hospitals in the Valley, and then possibly even nationwide," said Luis DeLeon, second year graduate student studying social work and one of the 10 interns in the program.

Over the past few years, more attention has been drawn to mental health in the medical community. It is important to realize that mental illnesses, like physical illnesses, can potentially be treatable to the point where the patient or client can go about living a full and productive life, Baldwin said.

According to Baldwin, due to the stigmas that surround mental health and wellbeing, mental health issues were not commonly discussed in the medical field. This partnership is working to dispel those stigmas and teach social work students not only the clinical side of social work, but the medical as well.

"When you build these collaborative relationships between a university and the community, that can result in some really exciting things and is driven by the people who are on the ground doing the work it can result in something very effective and practical," Baldwin said. "It can result in the making of positive impacts in the community with regards to a better trained and larger workforce."

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Lauren KobleyCommunity Reporter

Lauren Kobley is a reporter for the Community and Culture desk at The State Press. She has previously interned with the Fountain Hills Times. 

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