UNT receives $400k grant to develop programs to help prevent homelessness and criminal recidivism in rural communities

The grant from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will be used to expand their Healthy Community Collaborative program to less densely populated areas of Texas.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – The University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) has received $400,000 in funding from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (THHSC) to expand its Healthy Community Collaborative (HCC) program, which promotes collaboration between public and private sectors to help increase access to much-needed services for people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or who might have co-occurring substance abuse or primary care health issues, to rural communities. Subject matter experts in the departments of Public Administration, Rehabilitation and Health Services and Criminal Justice are teaming up to develop and implement a learning community and provide consultation and training services for emergency personnel, clergy and other community leaders in rural areas so they can development their own programs for at-risk populations.

“Rural areas often do not have access to the same mental health, behavioral health or recovery-oriented resources that are available in urban areas,” said Dr. Abraham David Benavides, associate professor of Public Administration and co-principal investigator for the grant. “Our college has extensive experience designing learning communities and we aim to arm stakeholders with the tools they need to help prevent homelessness and criminal recidivism.”

Various rural counties have been identified for the 15-month project including – Bastrop, Caldwell, Fayette, Gonzales, Marion, Harrison, Panola, Victoria and Lamar. Others are expected to join as well.

“By training community leaders in these areas to recognize the barriers to successful recovery and providing them with appropriate, evidence-based mental health and/or substance use disorder interventions , post-arrest jail diversion options, housing services and meaningful job development strategies, we anticipate a positive impact for individuals who are homeless and those with repeated arrests,” said Dr. Chandra Carey, chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services and co-principal investigator for the grant. “Hopefully, the success of this program will demonstrate that it can be implemented throughout the state and ultimately improve the quality of life for these individuals and service provisions within these communities.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says this project demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary research. 

“This generous funding from THHSC allows our talented faculty across departments to implement their skillsets and use their expertise to impact not only the lives of at-risk individuals, but to empower communities to provide much-needed resources that may not otherwise be accessible to their populations,” Dr. Chumbler said. “I look forward to seeing the results of this project, and what other funding and research opportunities it may bring about that allow this college to continue to make a difference locally and globally.”