MSU and UM Partner to Meet Mental Health Care Needs in Western Montana

BOZEMAN – New grant of $ 1.9 million over four years will allow a team of collaborators from Montana State University and the University of Montana to continue a program that trains students to better serve people with mental health care needs.

The grant, from the US Health Resources and Services Administration, will continue to fund the behavioral health workforce education and training program. Known as BHWET-West, the program is administered by both MSU and UM and aims to meet the mental health care needs in western Montana, particularly those of children, adolescents and youth.

Tracy Hellem, professor of nursing at Montana State University, right, and Jayna Mumbauer-Pisano, professor of consulting at the University of Montana – MSU photo by Kelly Gorham

“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,” said Rebecca Pogoda, clinical instructor at MSU College’s Bozeman campus. of Nursing and head of the university. psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program. “One of the goals of this program is to provide additional training opportunities for students so that they are well prepared for this job. “

Over the four years of the grant, the program will fund 72 MSU and UM graduate students to provide and integrate professional services into existing institutions, agencies and clinics. Most of the funds will go directly to student scholarships.

“While the state has many hardworking mental health professionals who work with our youth, there just aren’t enough of them,” said Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman, associate professor of social work at the UM and Program Director / Co-Principal Investigator for the grant. “This project funds the placement of graduate students in agencies and organizations that serve children, adolescents and youth of transition age, increasing the capacity of organizations to meet immediate needs and help build the workforce. work of the region.

Since students often practice where they are trained, Sontag Bowman added, placement in these agencies and organizations increases the likelihood that these future professionals will stay in these communities.

Students participating in BHWET-West pursue careers as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, registered social workers, or registered professional counselors. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners are enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at MSU College of Nursing, Psychology students are enrolled in a PhD program in Psychology at UM, Social work students are enrolled in the UM’s Masters in Social Work program and counseling students are enrolled in the UM’s Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program.

Pogoda pointed out that students participating in the program receive training specifically geared towards working with young people, both in the form of courses and monthly inter-professional meetings where related topics are discussed.

“One of the goals of this program is to provide training and experiences so that students graduating from these programs feel comfortable working with these populations and, in fact, want to work with these populations,” Pogoda said. .

The program also offers rich opportunities for inter-professional training and collaboration, she said.

“Learning about integrated care and interprofessional education is an important part of this grant,” said Pogoda. “It is designed to provide students with experiences of working with, for example, a therapist, primary care provider, psychiatrist and social worker, who often all work together with this population. “

Sarah Shannon, dean of MSU College of Nursing, said increasing the mental health workforce is a top priority for Montana.

“The MSU College of Nursing is proud to continue its partnership with the University of Montana in this urgent area,” said Shannon. “The BHWET-West program has been a national leader in providing students with an interprofessional behavioral health experience in a rural state. We know Montana consistently ranks among the worst states for suicide. We’re committed to making sure Montana’s children, teens and adults have access to help when they need it most.

Ultimately, the program aims to help meet the mental health care needs of residents of western Montana.

“The highlight of this grant is that it allows MSU and UM to create a workforce for the Montanais,” Pogoda said. “We train students to work in Montana and to work with young people. “

In addition to Pogoda and Sontag Bowman, other project collaborators include Co-Principal Investigators Tracy Hellem, Associate Professor at the Missoula Campus of the MSU College of Nursing; Jayna Mumbauer-Pisano, Assistant Professor, UM Consulting Department; and Greg Machek, professor, Department of Psychology at UM. Consultants include Bryan Cochran, professor, Department of Psychology at UM; and Holly Schleicher, former director of integrated behavioral health at UM.

The grant complements a second four-year grant recently awarded to the MSU College of Nursing that aims to address the shortage of mental health care providers in eastern Montana, especially in areas with small populations and high geographic remoteness. . This program will provide training opportunities and financial support to students who wish to become psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, mental health counselors or psychiatrists.

The MSU College of Nursing trains students on its five campuses to become professional nurses capable of working in a variety of settings. It is Montana’s largest supplier of graduate science nurses. It is also the only public provider of nursing education in Montana and offers a master’s degree in nursing focused on rural clinical nurse leadership and a doctoral program in nursing practice that prepares students for certification as nurses. family practitioners or nurse practitioners in psychiatric mental health. More information about the MSU College of Nursing is available at

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