Program to address need for social workers

6/23/2013

FHSU, KU, GCCC collaborate to bring master of social work to southwest Kansas.

FHSU, KU, GCCC collaborate to bring master of social work to southwest Kansas.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

About 30 people, including University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, attended a reception Saturday at The Golf Club at Southwind to celebrate the beginning of a new western Kansas master of social work program.

Made possible through a collaboration between Fort Hays State University and KU, in cooperation with Garden City Community College, the partnerships will allow students in western and southwest Kansas to complete the KU master of social work degree, either by attending classes at FHSU or GCCC.

The goal is to address a crucial need for licensed social workers in southwest and western Kansas.

"Currently, there are about 4,000 social workers statewide in Kansas," Gray-Little said. "But less than 1 percent of those live west of Wichita."

Gray-Little said that dramatic shortfall is a main reason KU wanted to expand its nationally ranked master of social work program to address the shortage of credentialed social workers.

"Today is an exciting day for us, the university, and the school of social welfare, and for our partners here in Garden City and at Fort Hays State," she said. "This is an area in particular need of social workers. Social workers play such an important role in the lives of many individuals in our communities."

According to figures presented Saturday, there are 3,871 licensed master-level social workers or licensed specialist clinical social workers in eastern Kansas, but just 187 of each type in western Kansas.

"I've talked to students that I've had who tell me they will be the only LSCSW for three and four counties (in western Kansas)," Ed Scanlon, director of the KU MSW program, said. "It's imperative that we increase the number of social workers west of Wichita."

Scanlon said statistics indicate one of every three people in the U.S. will benefit from the work of a social worker at least once in their lifetime. He noted that social workers are involved in helping people ranging in age from children to adults and people entering long-term care.

The 20 students in the initial advanced standing class of the Western Kansas MSW Program began taking classes June 1 and complete 38 hours of coursework by next May. The advanced standing designation means the students will complete their masters program in one year instead of two.

Kendal Carswell, MSW program coordinator-Western Kansas Outreach Program, said 120 students expressed interest in the program and 31 applied for the first group. The advanced standing class includes students from Finney, Ford, Sherman, Phillips, Pawnee, Osborne and Ellis counties.

The program combines face-to-face classroom time every other Saturday on campus at Hays and Garden City with online instruction.

"By bringing this program to western Kansas, individuals now can get their associate's degree through GCCC. They can get their bachelor's degree through FHSU and their master's through KU and never leave southwest Kansas. I'm extremely excited about that," Carswell said.

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