Grant will augment nurse-practitioner training in psychiatry

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Premera Blue Cross will invest $6.6 million to train advanced nurse practitioners in a psychiatry fellowship at the University of Washington. The fellowship will accept up to four ARNP fellows each year starting in 2023. Training will focus on inpatient, outpatient, telehealth consultation and integrated psychiatric care for mental health conditions, and include rotations at primary care clinics and at the new Behavioral Health Teaching Facility at UW Medical Center – Northwest.

The investment continues the organizations’ initiatives to address the nation’s growing mental health crisis. In Washington state, 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth ages 6–17 experience a mental health disorder each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In the past year, however, among both adults and adolescents with a mental health condition, more than half did not receive any treatment — primarily due to a shortage of qualified clinicians.

In Washington, 35 of 39 counties are federally designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas with limited access to clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, and marriage and family therapists. Nearly half the state’s counties, entirely in rural areas, do not have a single psychiatrist offering direct patient care.

“If we want to see improvements to healthcare in the future, we need to invest in sustainable solutions now,” said Jeffrey Roe, president and CEO of Premera Blue Cross. “The University of Washington continues to find innovative ways to provide better access to mental healthcare. Developing a strong workforce means communities will benefit for years to come.”

The training provided by this fellowship will allow psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to develop their expertise and serve as psychiatric consultants through the Collaborative Care Model. Developed at UW Medicine to treat common and persistent mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, the Collaborative Care Model integrates mental health services into primary care clinics with regular psychiatric case consultation for patients who are not improving as expected.  

“Our future fellows will transform the access to effective mental health care across Washington state through collaboration, community support, and sustainable access to evidence-based care for patient and families,” said Dr. Anna Ratzliff, professor of psychiatry at the UW School of Medicine.

“This fellowship will prepare a new pipeline of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners for leadership roles in complex clinical environments, mentoring other nurses and interprofessional mental health providers, and improving equitable access to mental health care,” said Azita Emami, executive dean of the UW School of Nursing.

This investment builds on Premera and the UW’s goal to improve health outcomes across Washington, including:

  • Premera’s $10 million investment in 2019 in the School of Medicine to help integrate the Collaborative Care model into primary care clinics across rural areas. To date, 23 clinics have implemented the Collaborative Care model through this grant.
  • A $4.7 million grant from Premera in 2020 to the UW School of Nursing, which established the Rural Nursing Health Initiative. This program has placed nearly 40 ARNP students in rural practices in Washington.

These investments are part of Premera’s strategy to improve access to care in rural areas, specifically focused on physician, nurse and health aide recruitment and training; clinical integration of behavioral health; programs to increase the capacity of mental health crisis centers in rural areas; and small equipment grants to rural providers.

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Tags:nursingpsychiatry & behavioral healthmental health

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