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355 students trained since 2014.
57 students will be trained during the 2023/2024 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 train and expand the behavioral health workforce in integrated care settings. As trainees, students gain experience working collaboratively in these settings while learning about integrated trauma-informed behavioral health care for underserved groups.

Program Requirements

In addition to completing required coursework, students accepted into one of the UNC-PrimeCare programs receive specialized training through supplemental courses, seminars, and workshops. This training is designed to increase students’ knowledge of behavioral health care with underserved groups, and enhance their skills for conducting assessments, treatments, and interventions appropriate for integrated settings. UNC-PrimeCare students also complete their practicums at settings that allow them to learn about delivering trauma informed care that enhances behavioral health services as a member of an interprofessional team.

Funding Support

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 funding is intended to reduce financial barriers to participation and learning.


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

Building on the success of the initial 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 have trained an additional 125 MSW and PMHNP students to deliver behavioral health care tailored for rural and underserved populations across the life course.

In 2019, Dr. Zerden was awarded an additional $1.35 million from HRSA to train MSW students with essential specialized skills for treating 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 practices focused on the treatment of opioid and other substance use disorders.

In 2021, the BHWET HRSA funding mechanism awarded Dr. Zerden and colleagues from the School of Education and the School of Medicine a further $1.92 million to train MSW and School and Rehabilitation Counselors to work interprofessionally in providing trauma-informed behavioral health services to children, youth, and families in high-need areas. This grant, UNC-PrimeCare4Youth, will fund 116 total students between 2021 and 2025.

[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 the U.S.’s most vulnerable populations. BHWET strives to increase and strengthen the health workforce, especially those supporting the nation’s underserved communities.

Applying to PrimeCare Programs

Students participate in UNC-PrimeCare during the final year of their programs. Applications are reviewed by a committee, and top applicants are awarded an opportunity to become trainees. Links to application documents are provided below.

For more information, please contact:

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