Collaboration Between Social Work, Psychology, and Criminal Justice

October 6, 2021 Mary Burke

Creativity and innovation are at the core of curriculum and program development at Hardin-Simmons University. HSU Faculty empower students, their peers, and the community by recognizing opportunities for collaboration and, more importantly, by taking action.

Community partnership, campus collaboration, and sharing resources—these are buzzwords any organization wishes to implement. The Departments of Social Work, Criminal Justice, and Psychology are doing just that, and HSU students are benefiting.

Abilene, Texas is home to networks of veterans, individuals who have reentered the workforce post incarceration, homeless, and more. Many in these populations suffer from dual diagnoses of mental health concerns, trauma, PTSD, and addictions. Because of these diverse backgrounds and diagnoses, professionals need to be trained holistically when called upon for help. Faculty in the Departments of Social Work, Criminal Justice, and Psychology are passing this content along to their students and finding ways to share their expertise across majors.

The Departments of Social Work, Criminal Justice, and Psychology produce graduates who often work with these underserved populations. To best serve the community and deescalate situations, HSU graduates must understand the various ways to approach a client.

HSU Students have the option to study across degree programs to make themselves marketable in the workforce, and more importantly, more effective with their professional work. Students can earn a B.S. in social work and psychology, learning dual skillsets to work best with future clients. Upon graduation, students can test to be licensed, and choose whether to continue for advanced standing with a graduate degree. Another option is to major in any of the three programs, and minor in a second.

Lauren Cantrell ’10, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Lauren Cantrell ’10, Assistant Professor of Social Work, shared, “(The) goal is to show students real world experience and relationship building across agencies. Our students are inspired, engaged, and enlivened. They want to make change in the right ways.”

“The majority of social work graduates stay in Abilene to invest in the community, to give back. When I was a student, I found my identity at HSU. I was challenged in the best ways. We’re training the future leaders of our community.”

Christopher Beavers, current senior and social work major, organized an event, sponsored by the Social Work Club, to hear from leaders within the Abilene Police Department (APD) and Betty Hardwick Center (BHC).

Beavers shared, “The goals of the Social Work Club are to facilitate communication and fellowship among the Social Work majors and faculty. We also promote interest in social work issues, promoting social action and service both within and outside the campus community.”

On Oct. 7 at 12 p.m. in the Houston Lantrip Conference Center, the departments will host Lieutenant Moran from the APD and Jenny Goode, CEO, from BHC to hear of the partnership between the APD, BHC, and Abilene Fire Department. These three entities have collaborated to create a Community Response Team (CRT) made up of a police officer, mental health clinician, and paramedic.

Members of Community Response Team -BHC website

From the BHC website, “This approach to handling crisis calls, including those related to mental health, ensures that calls are met with the appropriate response. The team’s versatility allows them to assist callers with a more personalized level of care and with long-term positive outcomes for the caller in mind. This approach also cuts back on the overtaxing of other officers, ambulances and hospital resources.”

If interested, read more about CRT. This event highlights the real-world applications of the program goals offered at HSU.

“I really hope the community gains a greater understanding and perspective of how the mental health teams work within our community, alongside with the Abilene Police Department. The two go hand and hand together, and they benefit from each other. Even if only one person takes something away from it, that is one more knowledgeable person in our community,” shared Beavers.

The Social Work Club will host another event this semester to honor our community’s veterans. Partnering with Student Engagement and the President’s Office, they will host their annual Veterans Day event, Nov. 11 at 12 p.m. on Anderson Lawn. The intention is to honor Veterans and their families, on campus and in our community, alumni and active faculty, staff, and students.

The public is invited to attend these events. If you would like to learn more, reach out to Lauren Cantrell at