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Frequently Asked Questions about the Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) Program

Q: What is the Integrated Behavioral Health Program?

A:  The Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) Program (previously known as the Mental Health Program (MHP) until its change effective July 1, 2016) was developed to prepare MSW-level students to meet the critical demand for a diverse, skilled social work workforce for the public mental health service arena.  Its mission is to develop a workforce of professionally trained and culturally competent social workers that meets the personnel needs of California’s public mental health system. 

Modeled after CalSWEC’s successful Title IV-E Stipend Program for prospective public child welfare social workers, the IBH Program provides funding for stipends that are distributed by California schools of social work to MSW students planning careers in behavioral health services. The IBH Program operates under a contract with California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development (OSHPD), with funding from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Workforce Education and Training, which also provides for IBH Program operating costs.

Q: How does the IBH Program work?

A: MSW students are selected by each school to receive a stipend in an advanced year of their studies. Each student completes specialized courses and a field placement in a county-operated or county-contracted community-based mental/behavioral health agency. 

Students may receive a total of $18,500 if enrolled full-time, or $9,250 if enrolled part-time. A student who receives a full-time stipend has a service obligation to work full-time for one calendar year in a county-operated or county-contracted behavioral health agency following graduation; a part-time student must complete six calendar months of full-time employment. Graduates may also work part-time or volunteer for at least 20 hours a week in an eligible setting, in which case the length of the service obligation is extended to complete the equivalent hours of full-time employment.

Q: What are the roles of IBH Program schools?

A: Faculty, public behavioral health directors, and CalSWEC staff worked together to identify a set of core competencies in 2005 that IBH students must capably demonstrate when they graduate. These core competencies are grounded in recovery principles, values, and practice skills, and were revised in 2011 to also address accreditation requirements of the Council on Social Work Education.  

Each school is required to address the core competencies in academic and field education through: specialized seminars, incorporation of competencies into foundation and advanced social work courses, tailored field work experiences, and modules that have been specifically written for the program. Evaluation mechanisms ensure that the program is progressing toward the goal of preparing a diverse social work workforce for a rapidly changing, recovery-oriented system.  

Additionally, the schools work to strengthen their relationships with local behavioral health agencies and regional partnerships through field work placements, engagement of behavioral health agency representatives on stipend selection committees, and outreach to agencies in counties that traditionally have not had IBH stipend recipients as interns or employees.

Q: Which schools participate in the IBH Program?

A: Currently 19 of California’s accredited graduate schools of social work and social welfare participate in the IBH Program.  

Q: How can interested persons obtain more information about applying for admission to a participating school?

A: They should contact the school they are interested in directly. View the current list of program coordinators.

Q: What is the history behind the IBH Program?

A:  In 1992, under CalSWEC's auspices, faculty from schools of social work and professionals from county mental health agencies throughout the state embarked on a collaborative project to develop a program for the social work workforce for the public mental health service arena modeled on the Title IV-E Stipend Program for public child welfare. A lack of funding streams and infrastructure support put the project in abeyance for a time. 

CalSWEC's efforts were revitalized in 2003, through a strategic plan to broaden CalSWEC's scope to address workforce development for mental health and aging services. The first set of competencies were approved in 2005 and passage of the Mental Health Services Act in 2004 created the opportunity to provide stipends and effectively implement new curricula focused on recovery-oriented principles and practice.  

Effective July 1, 2016, the CalSWEC Mental Health Program has become the CalSWEC Integrated Behavioral Health Program. This change, approved by CalSWEC’s Board of Directors in May 2016, was initiated in order to update program language associated with behavioral health and to reflect CalSWEC’s commitment to the integration of all of its current and future areas of focus.

CalSWEC’s transition to Integrated Behavioral Health also reflects its aspirations to serve more students in diverse ways, potentially developing stipends and other programs for students pursuing careers in non-County-affiliated behavioral health settings, substance abuse treatment settings, and primary and specialty care integrated health settings, as well as students committed to working with older adults and consumers engaged with corrections systems.