Psychological Services Center Offers Affordable Assessments and More to Community
When education and the needs of the community intersect, the situation is definitely win-win. Such is the case with the Psychological Services Center, a community mental health clinic operated by the Clinical Division of the Department of Psychology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “We are the ‘teaching’ clinic,” says director Christopher Overtree. “Here graduate students gain experience in conducting psychotherapy and psychological assessments under the supervision of licensed clinical psychologists. Because of our UMass Amherst affiliation, we can offer a sliding scale to community members who are without health insurance, or who are ‘underinsured’ for mental health care.” In recognition of this vital resource, the Chancellor’s Committee on Service Learning has awarded the Psychological Services Center a $10,000 Unit Implementation Grant. This seed money will allow for increased low-cost psychological assessments to those in the area who cannot afford this type of service. And because of the extensive training required to conduct psychological assessments, these funds enable graduate students to add real-world clinical experience to their training.
Children and older adults with mental illness often experience difficulty obtaining psychological assessment services because of costs and/or access. Such assessments are critical in identifying diagnostic and clinical issues relevant to successful treatment. However, psychological assessments often are inadequately covered by insurance, leaving high out-of-pocket expenses. By providing psychological assessments in the context of graduate training, the Psychological Services Center hopes to reduce the administrative costs of providing this service. Says Overtree, “As our work with community partners increases, we hope to provide consulting services in the form of teacher/parent trainings, needs assessments and other services. These activities, we anticipate, will increase our referral base and build stronger links to the area’s residents and organizations.”
Psychology’s Clinical Division operates a doctoral program accredited by the American Psychological Association that adheres to the scientist/practitioner model of clinical training. This model puts equal emphasis on research and direct clinical service in both the training of graduate students and their eventual professional activities. “One of the areas in which our program anticipates growth,” says Assistant Professor Rebecca Ready, “is in training students in psychological and neuropsychological assessments. Because students conduct these assessments under supervision of licensed clinical faculty, their evaluations have legal standing in helping community members qualify for a variety of services—including educational accommodations and treatment recommendations—and giving them access to a broad array of medical and mental health services.” The grant will coordinate service learning components designed to improve the overall training of doctoral students while offering assessment services at about a quarter of the going rate—and in some cases, free.
It is expected that increased visibility in the community will help sustain the assessment program. Plus, its ongoing development will support additional grant applications and other funding opportunities. Says Overtree, “Local school districts have expressed enthusiasm about our student involvement. And as the program develops, we plan to strengthen and expand our relationships with mental health programs and family centers throughout the area.” The Psychological Services Center can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 413.545.0041. For more information, please visit www.umass.edu/psc.
May 15, 2006