The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health awarded the Ima Hogg Scholarship for Mental Health to social work graduate student Steven Smith and four students from other Texas universities Monday.
Foundation spokeswoman Merrell Foote said two students from each of the 12 accredited graduate social work programs in Texas can apply for the $5,000 scholarship, which has been awarded annually since 1956, when Ima Hogg created it to attract students to mental health careers.
“We [chose] the top five based on a variety of criteria, including the students’ demonstrated interest in working in the mental health field,” Foote said. “It’s not so much about funding research — we have other grants [for that]. These scholarships are specifically for grad students in social work who plan on providing mental health services.”
Texas is experiencing a mental health care workforce shortage, according to a policy brief released in March by Methodist Healthcare Ministries and the Hogg Foundation.
Texas already had fewer mental health care professionals per capita than the national average in 2000, and since then the numbers per capita have dropped further. In 2009, the latest year with available numbers, 171 of 254 Texas counties did not have a single psychiatrist, 102 counties did not have a psychologist and 40 counties did not have any social workers. According to the brief, the shortage has multiple causes, including low pay, an aging workforce and recruitment issues.
“These scholarships enable the recipients to finish their advanced studies and begin practicing their profession at a time when these skills and knowledge are sorely needed,” said Hogg Foundation executive director Dr. Octavio N. Martinez, Jr., in a press release.
Smith, a second-year graduate student in the School of Social Work, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Texas A&M in 1994 and volunteered in the Peace Corps from 1996 to 1998. During his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in St. Lucia, West Indies, he decided to pursue a profession dedicated to helping others, according to a profile on him on the Hogg Foundation’s website.
“I want to develop a broad clinical skill set that can be applied in a variety of settings with children and families,” Smith said in the profile. “For example, many children and adolescents who are resistant to therapy, especially boys, may respond well to outdoor/adventure therapy.”