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SSW receives $14.5 million for research, service

A commitment to research and service has produced one of the strongest years for financial support in the history of the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The School received $14.5 million in external awards in the 2016–2017 fiscal year. This included $5 million in funding for research projects and more than $9 million for service projects throughout the State of North Carolina.
“This level of support is a testament to the quality of our faculty and our programs,” said Gary Bowen, dean of the School. “Our work impacts hundreds of thousands of people, not only in North Carolina but across our country and throughout our world.”
Research and service projects from the School address social challenges ranging from mental health to human trafficking, he added.
For example, with a $275,000 National Institutes of Health grant, assistant professor Amy Blank Wilson is investigating how persons with severe mental illnesses who are in prison can receive treatments to help improve their prison and community-reentry outcomes.
Distinguished professor Rebecca Macy is using $450,000 in grant funding from the Centers for Disease Control to investigate the effectiveness of “Wise Guys: The Next Level,” an educational program for young men and boys, in helping to prevent relationship violence and sexual assault.
Faculty members Mimi Chapman, Cindy Rizo, Trenette Goings, Matthew Howard, Melissa Lippold, Mark Testa, Sarah Verbiest and Lisa Zerden also received funding for new research projects during the 2016–2017 fiscal year. According to Sheryl Zimmerman, associate dean for research and faculty development, 37 new and continuing research projects are currently in progress at the School.
In addition to its research activities, the School partners with government agencies and human services organizations (including NC Department of Health and Human Services and its Division of Social Services, NC Department of Public Instruction and the Council on Social Work Education) to provide professional services that include data collection and analysis, development and delivery of educational materials and program administration.
The School received 14 new service contracts during the 2016–2017 fiscal year. Many of these contracts provide resources for families and children through programs of the Jordan Institute for Families.
Clinical associate professor Tamara Norris directs a $310,000 service contract for “Supporting Families with Children Who Have Special Needs.” She leads the Family Support Program, a statewide initiative that offers workshops to parents and caregivers, operates a resource referral helpline, helps develop policies and provides other technical assistance.
Distinguished professor Kim Strom-Gottfried directs a $1,715,000 service contract for the Behavioral Health Springboard (BHS) initiative, which provides face-to-face and online training for human services providers serving persons with problem gambling, substance use disorders, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and other challenges, as well as for group home employees. BHS also coordinates North Carolina’s Certified Peer Support Specialist Program.
Clinical assistant professor Josh Hinson directs a $108,000 service contract for the Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative, which partners with health clinics and resettlement agencies in the Triangle to provide mental health services to refugees. The initiative also trains community service providers to help them respond to refugee trauma and mental health needs.
The Governor’s Crime Commission awarded nearly $2,500,000 to research professor Dean Duncan to implement the multi-year Project NO REST, a statewide collaboration by state and community agencies to fight human trafficking.
Faculty members Mellicent O’Brien Blythe, Rebecca Brigham, Dean Duncan, Noel Mazade, Gary Nelson, Wanda Reives, Tonya VanDeinse and Sarah Verbiest also received funding for service contracts during the 2016–2017 fiscal year.
The School is on a similar pace for the 2017–2018 fiscal year, according to Bowen.
Clinical associate professor Sarah Verbiest is among the first recipients of grant funding for the 2017–2018 fiscal year, receiving a $1.5 million award over the next 3 years. She directs several programs addressing the needs of women, pregnant women, new mothers and infants and serves as a CDC senior consultant for the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.
“It is only going to get better,” Bowen said, noting that the School had already received more than $8 million in research grants and service contracts for the new fiscal year. “We’re off to a great start.”