Product type: manuscript.
Authors: Erin P.Fraher PhD, MPP, Erica Lynn Richman, PhD, MSW. Lisa de Saxe Zerden, PhD, MSW, Brianna Lombardi, PhD, MSW.
Introduction: Social workers are increasingly being deployed in integrated medical and behavioral healthcare settings but information about the roles they fill in these settings is not well understood. This study sought to identify the functions that social workers perform in integrated settings and identify where they acquired the necessary skills to perform them.
Methods: Master of social work students (n=21) and their field supervisors (n=21) who were part of a Health Resources and Services Administration–funded program to train and expand the behavioral health workforce in integrated settings were asked how often they engaged in 28 functions, where they learned to perform those functions, and the degree to which their roles overlapped with others on the healthcare team.
Results: The most frequent functions included employing cultural competency, documenting in the electronic health record, addressing patient social determinants of health, and participating in team-based care. Respondents were least likely to engage in case conferences; use Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment; use stepped care to determine necessary level of treatment; conduct functional assessments of daily living skills; use behavioral activation; and use problem-solving therapy. A total of 80% of respondents reported that their roles occasionally, often, very often, or always overlapped with others on the healthcare team. Students reported learning the majority of skills (76%) in their Master of Social Work programs. Supervisors attributed the majority (65%) of their skill development to on-the-job training.
Conclusions: Study findings suggest the need to redesign education, regulatory, and payment to better support the deployment of social workers in integrated care settings.
Supplement information: This article is part of a supplement entitled The Behavioral Health Workforce: Planning, Practice, and Preparation, which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.