South Lands $1 Million Grant to Address Mental Health

Posted on November 28, 2023
Joy Washington

Dr. Kimberly Williams, Dr. Bettina Riley, Dr. Amy Upton data-lightbox='featured'
Rural and underserved areas will benefit from a University of South Alabama program to train more mental healthcare professionals to help improve the mental health of youth, teens and young adults. A University of South Alabama interprofessional team of seven will collaborate to train more healthcare professionals who will focus on improving the mental health of youth, teens and young adults in rural and underserved areas. Team members pictured from left, Project Director and USA College of Nursing Professor Dr. Kimberly Williams; Associate Professor Dr. Bettina Riley; and Assistant Professor Dr. Amy Upton with the USA College of Education and Professional Studies.

Behavioral health experts on the Gulf Coast will benefit from a federal grant recently awarded to the University of South Alabama’s College of Nursing. The grant will help train more nurse practitioners and school counselors to serve youths and young adults.

This $1 million, two-year grant will help expand the Gulf Coast Region’s Team-Based Trauma-Informed Integrated Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training-Children, Adolescents and Young Adults Program for Professionals. The program aims to increase the supply of behavioral health professionals and increase access to behavioral health services. It also helps the program’s graduates get jobs in rural and underserved communities.

The grant is funded by the Health Resources & Services Administration to provide trauma-informed interprofessional services. Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?” The professionals will receive specialized training and a stipend. Training for the first cohort will start in January 2024.

“We are pleased to receive this grant award to effectively provide behavioral healthcare to youths, teens and young adults,” said Professor and Project Director Dr. Kimberly Williams. “Many children, adolescents and young adults living in rural and underserved areas have little to no access to psychiatric services, significantly longer travel times, increased use of emergency medical services and suboptimal medical care availability.”

Williams said the program’s training enhances interprofessional team-based skills and knowledge. Working with the College of Nursing on the program is the College of Education and Professional Studies.

“This grant is invaluable as we continue to expand the availability of practical training opportunities to the professionals in the behavioral health workforce,” said USA College of Nursing Dean Dr. Heather Hall. “One of the major emphases of this program is to build strong collaborations across academic disciplines to serve local, rural and medically underserved communities. And we are pleased to be collaborating with USA’s College of Education and Professional Studies.”

College of Nursing faculty team members joining Williams are Assistant Professor Dr. Melanie Baker, Associate Professor Dr. Kathleen McCoy, Associate Professor Dr. Bettina Riley and Associate Professor Dr. Linda Sue Hammonds. The team members from the College of Education and Professional Studies are Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Studies Dr. Tres Stefurak and Assistant Professor Dr. Amy Upton. 

The priority service areas for this grant program are Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

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