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JUNE 2021
Another $1.92 million HRSA grant awarded! UNC-PrimeCare4Youth will train 116 MSW, School, and Rehabilitation/Mental Health Counseling students over the next four years.

245 total students trained since 2014.
71 students will be trained in the 2021/2022 academic year.


Program Aims

UNC-PrimeCare programs offer specialized training to Master of Social Work (MSW), School and Rehabilitation/Mental Health Counseling students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The UNC-PrimeCare programs aim to train and expand the behavioral health workforce through integrated settings. As trainees, students gain rich experiences working collaboratively while learning about integrated behavioral health care with underserved groups and in the treatment of opioid and other substance use disorders.

Program Requirements

In addition to required and elective courses, final-year students accepted into one of the UNC-PrimeCare programs receive specialized training through supplemental courses, seminars, and workshops. This training is designed to enhance students’ knowledge of behavioral health care and increase their skills in using assessments, treatments and interventions appropriate for integrated settings. UNC-PrimeCare students complete their field/internship requirements at placements that allow them to learn about integrated care service delivery with enhanced behavioral health services, and as members of interprofessional health care teams. For their participation in the program, UNC-PrimeCare trainees receive a generous stipend over the course of the academic year, funded by the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) mechanism.


The UNC-PrimeCare program was established in 2014 with the first $1.4 million federal grant from HRSA, awarded to Dr. Lisa Zerden, UNC School of Social Work. The goal of the program was to prepare the behavioral health workforce for the changing landscape of health care.[1] This initial BHWET grant focused on training MSW students to work with adolescents and emerging adults. From 2014–2018, UNC-PrimeCare trained 95 MSW students, and contributed to the expansion of the behavioral health workforce.

Following the success of the first grant, in 2017, a second BHWET HRSA grant of $1.92 million was awarded to the School of Social Work, in partnership with the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) program at the UNC School of Nursing. By the end of the funding period in 2022, the UNC-PrimeCare program will train an additional 116 MSW and PMHNP students to deliver behavioral health care across the lifespan, focusing on health care for rural and underserved populations.

In 2019, Dr. Zerden was awarded an additional $1.35 million from HRSA to train MSW students with specialized skills needed to treat people with opioid and other substance use disorders. This grant, modeled after the successful workforce training established by earlier iterations of UNC-PrimeCare, is called UNC-PrimeCare-OUD. From 2019-2022, UNC-PrimeCare-OUD will train an additional 81 MSW students in integrated care focused on the treatment of opioid and other substance use disorders.

In 2021, Dr. Zerden, in collaboration with colleagues from the School of Education and the School of Medicine, was awarded $1.92 million, again from the BHWET HRSA funding mechanism to train MSW, School and Rehabilitation Counselors to work interprofessionally in providing behavioral health services to children, youth and their families in high need areas. This grant, UNC-PrimeCare4Youth, will fund 116 total students starting in the 2021-2022 academic year.

[1] UNC-PrimeCare is funded by HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program. HRSA is the primary federal agency tasked with improving access to health care for our nation’s most vulnerable populations. BHWET works to increase and strengthen the health workforce, especially in the nation’s underserved communities.

Applying to PrimeCare Programs

Students participate in UNC-PrimeCare during the final year of their programs. Applications to UNC-PrimeCare must be completed before students’ final year in their program of study. Applications are reviewed by a committee, and top applicants are awarded an opportunity to become trainees. The application form, instructions, and program details can be found here.

For more information, please contact:

Meryl Kanfer, MSW, LCSW
Field Placement Development Coordinator
UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work
325 Pittsboro St.  CB#3550
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3550
mkanfer at