New Program Trains Students to Provide Integrated Care

Catherine MedinaLed by Catherine Medina, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work, the Integrating Care Across the Lifespan (ICAL) program will increase behavioral health practices for underserved populations throughout regions of the state by increasing the number of social work professionals entering the behavioral health field.


Anna Zarra Aldrich (CLAS ’20)/Office of the Vice President for Research

Catherine Medina, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies Project, has been awarded a three-year grant for almost a million dollars from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The Integrating Care Across the Lifespan (ICAL) program will increase behavioral health practices for underserved populations throughout regions of the state by increasing the number of social work professionals entering the behavioral health field.

The program will allow for the training of social work graduate students to have an enhanced knowledge and capacity to provide services in an integrated care setting. At the same time, the program will build the ability of provider sites in underserved communities to offer quality integrated care services.

Integrated care is an emerging model of healthcare that emphasizes the seamless combination of primary health care, mental health and substance abuse services. This model underscores the importance of coordinating treatment for all aspects of a patient’s health, as there are substantial links between physical and mental well-being.

While a variety of studies have demonstrated the benefits of integrated care, many practitioners are unable to provide this type of health service due to a lack of appropriate training. Additionally, many people suffering from behavioral health problems do not seek the care they need due to the high cost of treatment, stigma associated with behavioral health problems and a lack of information about treatment availability and effectiveness.

The educational program developed and led by Medina will enrich masters-level students’ knowledge of integrated behavioral health care and interprofessional collaboration with other health care providers to insure quality patient-centered care throughout the life span. The program will select 20 motivated and capable students each year to achieve its overall goal of training more prospective healthcare social work professionals to provide integrated care. The program will also work with community-based organizations to train social work supervisors in the area of behavioral health to give students first-hand fieldwork experience.

Medina received her PhD from Columbia University School of Social Work in 2002. Her current research focuses on the social determinants of health, aging and health disparities in communities of color. As a licensed health provider and educator, Medina’s professional history includes working in several multi-disciplinary behavioral health related facilities, such as hospitals, mental health and substance abuse community-based agencies, and emergency departments providing services and leadership through diverse clinical, administrative and educative roles since 1981.

The Integrating Care Across the Lifespan (ICAL) is the HRSA number MO1HP31353.