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NJMHI Sets Deadline for Donation to its First Ever Hispanic Higher Education Scholarship Fund to Support Graduate Education in Social Work for Hispanics in New Jersey

MERCERVILLE, N.J. – March 13, 2003 – The New Jersey Mental Health Institute, Inc. (NJMHI) is setting a deadline of March 31, 2003 for additional contributions to the Hispanic Higher Education Scholarship Fund.  Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the scholarship fund should call Dr. Debra Wentz at (609) 838-5488, ext. 292.  The scholarship fund is specifically targeted to undergraduate college students of Hispanic background who are bilingual and interested in pursuing a master’s degree in social work from a New Jersey university.  The NJMHI engaged in a direct mail campaign that generated some initial donations for the scholarship fund, but requires additional assistance in order to make a more significant impact.  Scholarship recipients will be announced and receive their award at the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, Inc.’s annual conference being held on May 6 and May 7, 2003 at The Westin at Forrestal Village in Princeton, N.J.  The amount of and quantity of scholarship awards will depend on the contributions raised by the NJMHI.  

            “The Hispanic Higher Education Scholarship Fund will assist Hispanics in overcoming the financial barriers that keep them from pursuing a graduate school education.  Providing funds for Hispanic students to pursue a graduate degree in social work is a long-term strategy to directly address the desperate shortage of qualified bilingual and bicultural mental health professionals who can address the mental health needs of New Jersey’s growing Hispanic community,” said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., executive director, NJMHI.  “Any contribution is greatly welcomed and appreciated.  Your assistance in making a real difference is needed!” 

Many potential applicants have contacted the NJMHI expressing an interest in applying for the scholarship fund in hopes of receiving assistance with defraying their graduate social work education costs.  Applicants interested in applying for the scholarship fund may also contact Dr. Wentz for an application packet, which is now available.

According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration’s State Health Workforce Profiles, the majority of psychiatrists and social workers in the nation in 1998 were non-Hispanic whites (84% and 65%, respectively). The 1999 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 7% of social workers in the nation were Hispanic/Latino as compared with 65% who were non-Hispanic whites.

            “In addition to working in the behavioral and mental health fields, social workers are represented in an array of health care disciplines. Many of these disciplines can benefit from additional qualified bilingual and bicultural professionals to serve the growing Hispanic population,” said the Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics project director.

            Furthermore, focus groups conducted by the NJMHI’s Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics, found that a significant barrier for Hispanics in obtaining mental health services is the lack of qualified bilingual and bicultural clinicians.

“Providing the opportunity to see a bilingual and bicultural clinician will make all the difference when a Hispanic person is in need of mental health services. Studies have shown that Hispanics are more likely to remain in treatment and experience greater satisfaction when under the care of a Hispanic mental health care professional,” said the NJMHI project director.

            To learn more about NJMHI or the Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics project, which includes the Hispanic Higher Education Scholarship Fund, contact the NJMHI Executive Project Director, Dr. Debra Wentz at (609) 838-5488, ext. 292.

            NJMHI, an outgrowth of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, Inc., is a private nonprofit charitable organization based in Mercerville, N.J.  NJMHI was established in July 2000 to promote quality mental health services through training, technical assistance, research and policy development.  Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics, a project spearheaded by NJMHI, aims to address the nationwide lack of access to mental health services for Hispanics and to heighten awareness, acceptance and understanding of mental illness among the Hispanic population.