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Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program for Paraprofessionals


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Notice of Funding Opportunity (


Application Deadline: Apr 12, 2021


Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW)


Awards funding to institutions and programs to develop and expand experiential training opportunities, such as field placements and internships, for individuals training to become peer support specialists and other behavioral health-related paraprofessionals. Aims to increase the number of behavioral health paraprofessionals serving in high need, high demand areas, with special focus on gaining knowledge and understanding of the behavioral health needs of at-risk children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth.

Program goals and objectives include:

  • Collaborate with community-based organizations, such as emergency departments, social services, health centers, judicial systems, recovery community organizations and others, to increase access to behavioral health services, including opioid use disorder (OUD) and substance use disorder (SUD) prevention, treatment, and recovery services
  • Utilize team-based models of care in integrated, interprofessional behavioral health and primary care settings
  • Recruit diverse workforce representative of different genders, sexual orientations, and different racial, ethnic, cultural, geographic, religious, linguistic, and class backgrounds interested in serving high need and high demand areas
  • Expand the number of interdisciplinary, experiential training sites using team-based approaches that provide quality behavioral health services in high need, high demand areas
  • Improve didactic and experiential training activities by developing competencies in primary and behavioral integrated, interprofessional team-based, trauma-informed care for peer support specialist and behavioral health paraprofessional trainees
  • Utilize community partnerships to ensure opportunities for field placements, community education, career development, and job placement for trainees of different genders, sexual orientations, and diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, geographic, religious, linguistic, and class backgrounds
  • Promote the use of technology in the provision of services and training programs, including utilizing telehealth services, implementing strategies to increase digital health literacy, and offering options for distance learning
  • Reduce financial barriers by providing financial support to trainees in the form of stipends, tuition/fees, and supplies

Required program activities include:

  • Providing tuition, fees, supplies, and stipend support for 6 to 12 months to peer support specialist and behavioral health paraprofessional students
  • Establishing or expanding the number of partnerships with experiential training sites that recruit and place trainees in high need, high demand areas in order to recruit and place trainees in these areas
  • Recruiting workforce from different racial, ethnic, cultural, geographic, religious, linguistic, and class backgrounds, and different genders and sexual orientations interested in serving high need and high demand areas
  • Demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the populations served, especially those with mental disorder symptoms or diagnoses, and with particular focus on children, adolescents, and transitional-aged youth
  • Enhancing existing paraprofessional certificate program(s) through curriculum development or by establishing and enhancing field placements and internship opportunities focused on behavioral health concerns of the target population, including OUD/SUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services
  • Having at least 1 certificate program in place at the time of application, such as programs for peer support specialists, peer support counselors, community health workers, mental health workers, substance abuse/addictions counselors, and other behavioral health paraprofessional occupations
  • Providing a certificate program with Level 1 pre-service training, including didactic and experiential training, in the form of a field placement in an integrated, interprofessional setting
  • Developing relationships with community-based partners to provide experiential training, career development, and job training services that help students obtain employment upon graduation
  • Setting a goal of at least 50% of Level 1 completers who enter into a Level 2 in-service registered apprenticeship program, if applicable
  • Integrating behavioral health training into primary care settings to improve access to behavioral health services, including OUD/SUD prevention, treatment, and recovery services
  • Integrating technology through the use of distance learning and training to strengthen telehealth service delivery and digital literacy
  • Evaluating programs through a continuous, evidence-based monitoring tool and revising objectives to improve outcomes when necessary
  • Collecting program and performance data and participating in program evaluations
  • Collaborating regularly with other grantees to leverage resources and enhance training across regions
  • Supporting career development and progression for behavioral health paraprofessionals

For this opportunity, high need and high demand areas are identified as sites located within a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and/or a Facility Mental HPSA with a score of 16 or above, or within a geographical area considered rural as defined by the HRSA Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP). Applicants can use the HPSA Find Tool to determine an area's eligibility.

Trainees may receive no more than 12 consecutive months of stipend support through this program. Part-time trainees are allowed to receive a stipend prorated at one-half of the fixed amount for no more than 24 consecutive months. Required minimum stipend amounts for full-time trainees are as follows:

  • $5,000 for Level 1 trainees
  • $7,500 for Level 2 trainees during registered apprenticeship

Additionally, trainees may receive up to $3,000 for tuition, fees, and supplies.

Amount of Funding

Award ceiling:

  • $350,000 per year for programs only implementing Level 1 pre-service training
  • $500,000 per year for programs implementing Level 1 pre-service training and Level 2 in-service training

Project period: 4 years
Estimated number of awards: 43
Estimated total program funding: $24,300,000

A total of approximately $8,000,000 is available as one-time additional funds. Applicants may request one-time funds up to $216,000 in the first year of the grant.

Who Can Apply

Applications may be submitted by state-licensed mental health nonprofit and for-profit organizations capable of supporting programs for Level 1 and Level 2, if applicable, training of peer support specialists and other behavioral health paraprofessionals. Eligible organizations include:

  • Universities
  • Community colleges
  • Technical schools
  • Native American tribal organizations, if appropriately licensed by an appropriate tribal government or political subdivision
  • Domestic faith-based and community-based organizations, tribes, and tribal organizations, if otherwise eligible

Applicants can request a funding preference under a qualification for placing program trainees and graduates in medically underserved communities (MUCs):

  1. Qualification 1 - High Rate: Must demonstrate that at least 50% of program graduates in practice settings serving MUCs in academic years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.
  2. Qualification 2 - Significant Increase: must demonstrate a 25% increase placing program graduates in MUCs from academic year 2018-2019 to academic year 2019-2020.
  3. Qualification 3 - New Program: Must meet at least 4 of the criteria related to MUCs specified in Part V of the program guidance. New programs are defined as any program that has graduated/completed less than 3 classes.

Medically underserved communities are defined as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs), Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs), or a Governor Certified Shortage Areas for Rural Health Clinic (RHC) purposes HPSA. Applicants can document these designations using the HRSA Shortage Area Dashboard.

Current BHWET award recipients whose grants are scheduled to end on August 31, 2021 are eligible to apply for this funding opportunity.

Geographic Coverage


What This Program Funds

Capacity Building • New Program • Operating Costs and Staffing • Training Providers

Application Process

Application instructions, requirements, and other information can be found in the funding announcement.

Applicant frequently asked questions


For programmatic or technical questions:
Nicole M. Wilkerson

For grants management or budget questions:
William Weisenberg

Topics This Program Addresses

Healthcare Workforce • Mental Health • Substance Use Disorder • Youth