More Mental Health Care Education Proposed

Photo Credit: Robert Steckmest, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Gov. Nixon Announces His Plan for $20 Million in Grants for UMKC and Other Schools

At a news conference at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies, Gov. Jay Nixon announced his budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 will include $20 million in grants for the state’s public colleges and universities to educate an additional 1,200 students for careers in high-demand mental health care fields.

The governor’s Caring for Missourians: Mental Health initiative would mean $4.156 million in grants  — more than one-fifth of the proposal — to educate students at UMKC. The money would train 65 clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists and advanced nurse practitioners at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, School of MedicineCollege of Arts and Sciences and School of Education.

“Here at UMKC, we greatly appreciate Gov. Nixon’s strong commitment to higher education and to caring for our most vulnerable citizens,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “Thanks to support from Gov. Nixon’s administration, UMKC’s School of Nursing and Health Studies is now able to offer a master’s degree with an emphasis in mental health care to help address the need for diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders. This latest proposal would help more of our graduates pursue these life-saving careers while strengthening Missouri’s mental health care system.”

These additional funds at UMKC also would help the school hire new faculty, expand programs and purchase equipment.

“From teaching a child with autism how to interact with peers, to working with law enforcement to respond to a parent in mental health crisis, these health professionals will build on the work we’ve already done to strengthen communities and make sure Missourians have access to the care they need,” Nixon said. “With our economy continuing to pick up steam, this strategic investment will help Missourians with mental and developmental challenges live up to their God-given potential, while creating more high-paying jobs in our communities.”

Nixon said the initiative would help to address a critical shortage of mental health professionals to provide treatment and support to Missourians with developmental disabilities, mental illness or substance abuse disorders. Currently, 104 of Missouri’s 114 counties, including Jackson County, are designated by the federal government as mental health professional shortage areas. Seventy-two Missouri counties lack a licensed psychiatrist, and 90 do not have a resident licensed analyst to treat autism spectrum disorders.

The proposal for mental health care professional education at UMKC:

  • Clinical and counseling psychologists: 15 doctoral students, interns and post-doctoral fellows
  • Nurses: 20 Bachelor of Science students, 24 Family/Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners
  • Physicians: 6 child psychiatric residents

Launched by Nixon with an announcement at UMKC in 2009, Caring for Missourians is an effort to increase the number of health care professionals being educated at Missouri’s public colleges and universities. Since then, $40 million has been invested in Missouri’s two- and four-year institutions of higher learning to help 1,500 more Missourians pursue careers as nurses, physicians, dentists and other health professionals.

The governor said UMKC’s key role in the success of Caring for Missourians to this point brought him back to the campus for the latest announcement.

“UMKC is an institution that continues to be a hub of entrepreneurship and innovation and a vital academic anchor for the Kansas City community,” Nixon said.

One of UMKC’s students is Michele Withrow of Joplin, who graduated in December as part of the first graduating group from its Family/Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner master’s degree program. She introduced Nixon at the UMKC event and described the critical need she’s seen for higher quality mental health care following the May 2011 tornado in Joplin. Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are common.

“This distance-learning program at UMKC was a breakthrough for me as a single, working mother,” said Withrow, whose own home and the hospital where she worked were destroyed by the tornado. “Before, I could offer support for those who needed it. But with this degree I can diagnose, provide therapy and prescribe medicine to those who need it — be their true advocate. They need someone to be their advocate.”

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