New UTEP Partnership Aims To Improve Access To Mental Health In Rural Texas Counties

Officials from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, and Preventive Health Care Services (PCHS) in Presidio, Texas, say ‘a new partnership will develop a workforce of behavioral health specialists to improve access. mental health services in five rural southwest Texas counties.

With support from a $ 1.9 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Services Resource Administration (DHHS) to PCHS, also known as Presidio County Health Services, UTEP and Sul Ross will train students to provide culturally appropriate mental health care to residents of Presidio, Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth and Jeff Davis counties.

As a subcontractor of the grant, UTEP will receive $ 824,378.

“What’s important about this grant is that it will create a behavioral health workforce in five binational rural Texas counties, which have been designated as Medically Underserved Areas and Professional Shortage Areas. health, ”said Thenral Mangadu, MD, Ph.D., UTEP. Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences at the College of Health Sciences.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of many people and increased their risk for substance use disorders, depression and other behavioral health issues. Our goal is to build an inter-professional healthcare workforce that can meet the growing mental health needs of residents of these underserved border communities.

Officials say this community-engaged program will build on existing interdisciplinary partnerships at UTEP’s Minority AIDS Research Center and service delivery in the Texas Public Health Region 9/10 to build and sustain the capacity of the personal health.

Officials say over the next four years 16 students from UTEP and Sul Ross will be selected each year for the Rural Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program (BHWET). Program teams will work with community partners from Presidio and surrounding counties to provide students with hands-on experiences in local primary care clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and other healthcare organizations. Students who are trained under the program will receive a stipend.

Adrian N. Billings, MD, Ph.D., PCHS chief medical officer, said the program will bring much-needed health services to rural Big Bend, Texas, which includes counties with some of the shortage scores of most senior mental health professionals. in the USA.

“Training these mental health students in these rural and underserved counties will hopefully result in a labor pool for the Big Bend and also underfunded rural areas to reduce disparities in mental health care, ”Billings said.

In total, the program will train 64 students who can be recruited to practice professionally in the region after graduation.

Barbara Tucker, Ph.D., dean of Sul Ross College of Education and Professional Studies, said the grant would provide opportunities to reduce mental health disparities in the Big Bend area, located in US-Mexican border.

“As a small university, Sul Ross has limited resources to implement larger grants independently,” Tucker said. “Our partnership with UTEP has enabled Sul Ross to participate in scholarships such as BHWET, which will also allow us to better serve our students and our community.

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