The nationally recognized Montana State University nursing program is expanding its training to help mental health care. A $2 million grant from the U.S. Health and Services Administration will add to funding for a program run by both MSU and the University of Montana.

The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program (BHWET-West) is primarily for the needs of children, adolescents and youth in Western Montana. The grant will fund stipends for 72 MSU and UM graduate students to help integrate mental health services into existing clinics and agencies.

Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman is a UM social work associate professor and program director for the grant. She said, "This project funds the placement of graduate students in agencies and organizations that serve children, adolescents and transitional-age youth, expanding the capacity of organizations to meet immediate needs and help build the area's workforce."

Rebecca Pogoda, head of the MSU College of Nursing's psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, said, "Montana has a significant general need for mental health care, as well as a specific need for mental health care for children, adolescents and young adults." She expects students to become better prepared when they finish the program. Bowman said students often practice where they train, and that leads to them staying in those communities as they continue their careers.

MSU College of Nursing dean Sarah Shannon said that Montana ranks among the worst states for suicide. She said, "We are committed to ensuring that children, teens and adults in Montana have access to help when they need it most."

MSU previously received a grant that addresses mental health issues in Eastern Montana, which has longer distances between health care providers, and fewer facilities. More details on the grants are available at the MSU News site.

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