UMKC to Lead Effort to Integrate Mental Health into Community Health Care

Two-year, $350,000 grant to School of Education will bring psychologists into interprofessional training, community-based care teams

Integrating mental health professionals into interprofessional health care teams is still an emerging concept in the U.S. The School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is taking a leading role in advancing that concept to benefit underserved and vulnerable people in the urban core, via a major grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Under the two-year, $353,340 grant, students studying for a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at the UMKC School of Education will work in community-based interprofessional teams.

The new interprofessional education program will be called Psi CARE (Psychologists Collaborating and Advocating to Restore Equity:  An Integrated Training Program in Behavioral Health Care for Underserved Urban Communities). The goal is to increase the number of psychologists who have the knowledge, skills and experience to meet the behavioral health needs of vulnerable and underserved communities in the Kansas City metropolitan area, including refugees and immigrants, through prevention programming and competent care. The training model emphasizes respect for individual and cultural diversity and is inherently aimed at promoting social justice.

Under Psi CARE, doctoral candidates will take four new or revised courses designed to prepare them to work in primary health care centers focusing on urban populations, including a two-semester practica in a primary health care setting. The School of Education will admit seven students in the program in each of the next two years under the grant; the deadline to apply for the Fall 2015 cohort is Dec. 1.

Interprofessional education is a rapidly emerging concept in health care education. It involves students from two or more disciplines learning together to cultivate collaborative practice to provide patient-centered care. UMKC’s Schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy, Medicine and Nursing and Health Studies, clustered together on the university’s Hospital Hill Campus, have made interprofessional education a priority. Under Psi CARE, future counseling psychologists studying at the School of Education are being added to the mix.

Joanna Nilsson, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Counseling and Educational Psychology, is the lead project director. She will be working with Dr. LaVerne Berkel (counseling psychology), Dr. Patricia Kelly (nursing and health studies), and Dr. Susan Wilson (vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion) on administering the program. The curricula will be developed through a collaborative effort by several partners including faculty in the UMKC Counseling Psychology program, faculty in the schools of Nursing and Medicine, the Center for Behavioral Medicine (an APA-accredited predoctoral internship site) and several community agencies.

According to Nilsson, African American, Hispanic, and refugee and immigrant families located in urban Kansas City are overrepresented among the vulnerable populations. They experience more barriers to care, and tend to underutilize traditional mental health services while overutilizing primary care and emergency medical services. A 1999 Surgeon’s General Report recommended an integrated approach that includes both mental health care and primary care to meet the mental health needs of these vulnerable populations.

Psi CARE is patterned after the Empowerment Program, a highly successful program in the School of Education, which provides services to refugee and immigrant women and their families in the KC metro area.


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