Social work grant to run dry

A social work research center in PSU’s Graduate School of Social Work is entering its final year of funding from a start-up grant. The center has enabled Portland State students to do advanced mental health research and has established a valuable resource center for future students. Though the center will run out of set funding next year, it will continue to run through other funding sources.

The Center for the Study of Mental Health Policy and Services was established in May 1996 with a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The grant was designed to be used over a five-year period, and will run out in May 2002. The center was established to increase the development of high-quality social work research in an active program of public mental health research, according to their Web site.

The grant was awarded through a competitive process among major social work schools in the United States. PSU’s center was the fourth of only eight nationwide to receive grants from NIMH.

Research at the center focuses on children and adults with mental illnesses. So far seven Ph.D. students have been awarded research funds through the center. Their research covers various topics, from postpartum depression, HIV and suicide in the elderly to domestic violence, street youth and substance abuse.

Several students have used their research projects to successfully apply for further funding from other sources. NIMH has provided funding for several students to do additional research towards their doctoral theses. The center gives students a chance to do research that they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to perform.

In the coming year, the center will shift its focus onto one central research area with three related workgroups rather than funding individual research projects.

The core research area will deal with coordinating agencies and services for mentally ill patients throughout their life, with the three workgroups divided by age group into early childhood, adolescent to adult and older adult concerns. The center hopes to better address age-specific mental illnesses, funding gaps and how to better transition between mental health service agencies.

The center has a variety of resources available to students and faculty doing mental health research. A library and resource center is located in the Ondine building and contains collections from several mental health organizations from around the state. The library is open to graduate students and faculty in the Graduate School of Social Work. The center also sponsors workshops periodically on specific research issues that are open to all faculty and students.

The grant that helped establish the center will run out in May 2002, but Robert Paulson, director of the center, said that the center will definitely continue.

“It may be a somewhat different format, and we’ll be looking for additional sources of funding, but we do intend for it to continue,” Paulson said.

For more information on the center, contact the Graduate School of Social Work at (503) 725-4712, or go to the center Web site at