New Mexico State University's School of Social Work will create the Center for Community Engaged Partnerships with the help of two, separate grants from El Paso Electric Company, totaling $12,000. The center will focus on research and training and will partner with health and social agencies in the community.
"Licensed social workers are very valuable for the state," said Tina Hancock, director of the School of Social Work in NMSU's College of Health and Social Services. "We are trying to anticipate the needs of New Mexico and prepare graduates who can step into the emerging roles in this new era of integrated health care."
Hancock said there is currently a shortage of social workers in New Mexico and that the Affordable Health Care Act will add additional pressures for licensed social workers and for providers to deliver training sessions for workers assuming new roles in health and behavioral health care organizations. Anticipating shifting needs will reduce the loss of social workers from other important practice areas such as child welfare.
She said the center would provide various services to the community. Among them will be a partnership with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department to deliver family and child welfare training and to provide foster parent training and services for adoptive families. The center is also working to offer training for workers with Centennial Care, the state's expanded Medicaid program.
"Workforce development is a key contributor to the economic viability of our region. Economic development of southern New Mexico is a focus for El Paso Electric," said Rico Gonzales, director of New Mexico external affairs for El Paso Electric. "We're happy to partner with New Mexico State University in this area."
As part of the center's functions, Hancock said the School of Social Work has prepared a directory of social and health agencies in Dona Ana County for the community to reference and plans to hold a symposium on workforce development with other schools of social work across the region.
"The center enables us to create partnerships with community service organizations to address continuing education and workforce development needs for the state," she said. "We're working to ease the strain on the number of social workers available and make sure there are social workers who have the knowledge necessary in this new area."