Business & Economy

UWF receives grant from BP Oil Spill for mental and behavioral health counseling

Glenn Rohrer, Ph.D., chair of the Social Work Department at the University of West Florida (UWF), has been awarded a $5.04 million grant over five years to fund mental and behavioral health treatment and longer-term supportive services to people and communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Rohrer is the project leader of the Mental and Behavioral Health Capacity Project in Florida.

The mental health project is one of the four projects that make up the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program developed by BP and counsel representing certain plaintiffs in the Deepwater Horizon litigation in the US District Court in New Orleans. Supervised by the court, the program is funded with $105 million from the BP Deepwater Horizon Medical Settlement.

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) New Orleans helped to establish a coalition of collaborating partners in the four affected states including the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of South Alabama, the University of West Florida, Tulane University, and the Louisiana Public Health Institute dedicated to work together to implement the goals of the four integrated projects of the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program. The other three projects address primary care, environmental health and literacy, and training of community health workers.

Based on data gathered by the LSUHSC New Orleans, there are significant mental health needs directly attributable to the Deepwater Horizon incident. The project will aim to work to develop FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers) and community clinics into high-quality one-stop-shops for primary care and mental and behavioral health care once the short-term treatment services are completed.

“The target population in Florida will include adults, children, and families who were affected by the Deepwater Horizon incident in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay Counties,” said Rohrer. “Services will include assessments, consultation, training, education, counseling, psychotherapeutic services, psychiatric treatment, resilience building, brief interventions, and support groups.”

According to Rohrer, integrated services are very helpful in both reducing mental health problems and in improving response to medical treatment.

“Mental and behavioral health services will be made available to children and families in locations where needs are the most immediate and pressing such as in school settings,” said Rohrer. “Meeting the needs of children who have been traumatized not only improves children’s ability to achieve their potential but reduces the likelihood of future medical problems.”

This grant will also allow for full tuition paid graduate assistantships for select UWF Master’s of Social Work students, as well as an opportunity for job placement for select UWF’s graduates.

“One of the goals of the project is to ensure the connections among the Gulf states and within individual communities remain in place and serve as a foundation for capacity building, identifying and treating mental and behavioral health needs for the future, and serve as a model for future disaster response as well,” said Rohrer.