UNC-PrimeCare, Masters in Social Work Program

Project: Research project


Access to adequate and affordable health and mental health care, including substance abuse treatment, is a growing public health concern for U.S. youth and young adults. The lack of access to behavioral health (BH) services is among the nation’s greatest health care disparities, and particularly problematic for transitional-age youth (16-25 years) when screening, prevention, and early intervention for mental health and substance use disorders can have great benefit. North Carolina has a disproportionate need to strengthen BH services for youth and young adults. Youth 12 years and older in NC have among the highest rates of illicit drug use and dependence in the nation, but the shortage of BH services in NC puts these youth among those who are most in need of treatment but the least likely to receive no intervention or treatment. The disparity in access to care is particularly acute in rural states such as North Carolina where all or parts of 41 out of 100 counties are chronically medically underserved, and 54 of the 100 counties are designated as areas with serious shortages of behavioral health services. The prevention of BH issues and related long-term negative outcomes, including the development of chronic physical and mental health disorders hinges on early diagnosis and intervention and an integrated approach that takes into account the social contexts in which children, adolescents, transitional-age youth and their families are embedded. A holistic, integrated approach is the specialty of social work training, and the UNC-PrimeCare program will focus on a person-in-environment perspective.
The urgent need for master’s level social workers (MSWs) skilled in behavioral health and violence prevention for children, adolescents, and transitional-age youth warrants special programs to expand the workforce to address these issues. To address disparities in access to behavioral health care for youth and young adults, the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, among the nations’ top five social work programs, will to emphasize integrated BH services in primary care settings. UNC-PrimeCare will be distinguished by a core curriculum focused on BH in primary care settings and experiential training through field placements in integrated primary-care agencies, interactive workshops, and a learning network for professionals in the State. Course content and field placements at UNC School of Social Work will be significantly augmented in a purposeful and coordinated way to better integrate mental health and physical health in a holistic way. UNC-PrimeCare will result in an expanded, well-trained and culturally competent BH workforce prepared to meet the needs of children, adolescents, and transitional-age youth and their families in North Carolina.
Effective start/end date9/30/149/29/17


  • HRSA Bureau of Health Professions (BHP)


social work
health service
mental health
young adult
health care
early diagnosis
drug dependence
substance abuse
drug use
social worker
public health
human being