N.C. A&T, UNCG COLLABORATE ON COMMUNITY-BASED MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT

Guilford County’s growing immigrant community is one of the county’s most underserved populations for mental health services.  The correlation between immigrant status and depression, anxiety, and substance abuse makes such services a critical need. 

Beginning this fall, one largely immigrant neighborhood will become the site of a new community-based mental health care provider through a project led by North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.  The project will involve the departments of social work at N.C. A&T and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Center for New North Carolinians (CNNC) at UNCG, and the joint A&T-UNCG master’s degree program in social work.

The project will focus on the Oakwood Forest community, off U.S. 29 north of Greensboro.  The neighborhood has about 480 households and 2,400 residents. Eighty percent are of Mexican descent with limited English-language ability.  The program will be funded for its first three years by a $447,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust of Winston-Salem.

Most of Oakwood Forest’s households are characterized as working poor with temporary jobs in construction, restaurants, and other service industries.  In general across the nation, the Latino/Hispanic population is among those with the highest poverty rate and lowest rate of health insurance.

CNNC has previously worked with 50 families in the neighborhood to establish the Thriving Families organization.  The neighborhood group is the process of establishing a community center, where the new program will be located.  Because of limited space in the community center, it also will have office space at the Gateway University Research Park north campus a few miles away.

Thriving Families conducted a community needs assessment last fall that identified the need for counseling and mental health services. Many residents reported feelings of anxiety and depression. Additionally, they expressed alienation from the mental health system due to a lack of knowledge of available resources, means of transportation, and ability to pay for services. 

The new project is based on previous successful collaborations among the partners. “We do things together routinely,” said Dr. Yoko Crume, assistant professor of social work and principal investigator on the grant. “We’ve partnered together from the very beginning” of the joint A&T-UNCG master’s program.  Along with Dr. Crume, the principal faculty members on the project are Dr. Maura Nsonwu of N.C. A&T and, from UNCG, Dr. Jay Poole and Dr. Raleigh Bailey.

The program is modeled on the Congregational Social Work Education Initiative, a collaborative effort among the social work educational programs of two universities and the Congregational Nurse Program of Cone Health Systems. It provides appropriate, cost-effective health and mental health services to older and vulnerable residents, mobilizing student social work interns to assist with the effort.

The new project will mobilize social work interns to meet the mental health care needs of Oakwood Forest residents, focusing on culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health service delivery.  CNNC, with its experience in the Oakwood Forest community, is a key partner.

The Oakwood Forest program will provide individual and group psychotherapeutic activities, case and care management services, and advocacy and community empowerment.

In addition to providing services to the community, the program will provide social work students at the graduate and undergraduate levels with real-world experience working with one of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged groups in our community. 

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Its mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina. The Health Care Division promotes wellness state-wide by investing in prevention and treatment. The Poor and Needy Division of the Trust responds to basic life needs and invests in solutions that improve the quality of life and health for financially needy residents of Forsyth County. Wachovia, a Wells Fargo Company, serves as sole trustee.