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Establishing a Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Improve Behavioral Health: School of Nursing to participate in cross-campus mental health training program

Posted: Oct. 17, 2017

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners are prepared to provide care to
individuals and families

If you happen to be one of the more than 500,000 Texans diagnosed with serious mental illness and you live in Central Texas, chances are you’ve struggled to get the care you need. That’s because mental health resources are scattered throughout the state, and most areas in Texas don’t have an acceptable number of mental health professionals and access, according to industry experts.

That’s about to change, thanks to a federal grant received by The University of Texas at Austin.

The grant of nearly $1.8 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration was awarded through a collaboration between the UT Austin School of Nursing, Dell Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, and College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology. The funding will support innovative, multi-disciplinary training, using programs from across the UT Austin campus, to address the mental health needs of people in Travis County with low incomes, without insurance or from historically underserved communities.

The goal is to prepare more practitioners to deliver culturally and linguistically competent behavioral health care and to reduce the state’s behavioral health workforce shortage. To meet this need, the university will receive approximately $440,000 a year for four years to support a cross-campus collaborative called the Integrated Behavioral Health Scholars program, a unique integrated behavioral health education and training program. With this support, 84 graduate and professional students working in fields ranging from nursing to social work to psychology and psychiatry will be trained together to deliver culturally and linguistically competent behavioral health care.

“The School of Nursing’s psychiatric nurse practitioner students are prepared to assume multiple responsibilities, including differential diagnosis and management of psychiatric and mental health disorders through medication management and psychotherapeutic interventions, including individual, group and family therapies,” said Dr. Donna Rolin, assistant professor of Clinical Nursing and director of the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner program at the School of Nursing. “They also actively engage in health promotion and illness prevention strategies with patients and families across the lifespan. This additional, interdisciplinary training will ensure that they are ready to promote concepts and practices to strengthen recovery and help patients to lead productive and fulfilling lives.”

Psychiatric nurse practitioner students discuss case management scenarios.

Integral Care, along with other partners, will provide clinical training sites, supervision and guidance for students and residents. Integral Care is the local mental health authority for Travis County, supporting adults and children living with mental illness, substance use disorder and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We’re excited to work with our University of Texas partners to bring their collective resources to address the mental health needs of our community,” said David Evans, chief executive officer of Integral Care. “Integral Care brings 15 years of experience providing integrated mental health care and primary health care, which creates a strong foundation for training the next generation of health care professionals. Working together, we can improve the health of people in Travis County.”

The grant will make it possible to create unique programs that give world-class training to local providers. Preference will be given to students who meet the requirements of the grant, such as being bilingual and a member of underrepresented groups.

This training will cover a wide variety of primary and specialty care models, integrating different forms of care in ways that improve the overall health of patients, help providers at all levels deliver the best care possible, and create more value for the community.

The program is designed to encourage work in the community, especially with people who are most in need of help and who have the hardest time accessing it. Much of the training will be provided in clinics run by community partners, especially Integral Care.

“Our psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner students are well versed in providing care not only to individuals with mental health issues but who also struggle to access the care they so desperately need,” Dr. Rolin, said. “That’s why we’re excited to be working collaboratively on such an important and sustainable endeavor.”

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