Program will train mental health providers, improve health care in rural Missouri

August 09, 2016

COLUMBIA, Mo. - According to the U.S. Census, 37 percent of Missourians live in rural communities and have limited access to health care, particularly mental health care. A new graduate education program at the University of Missouri has received nearly $700,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to train psychology doctoral candidates in integrated, primary health care settings, in an effort to improve health care for underserved populations with mental health and physical disorders.

"Placing psychology doctoral candidates within primary health care agencies will enhance the current infrastructure in Missouri's communities and improve comprehensive care for patients," said Laura Schopp, professor of health psychology and co-principal investigator for the training program. "For example, a patient with diabetes may need psychological help to address mental barriers that could be preventing them from changing their behavior. Having psychologists working side-by-side with primary care providers should result in better patient outcomes and savings to the state in Medicaid dollars."

The funding will support several training partnerships and placements throughout Missouri including: "Previous research has indicated the need for a comprehensive approach to health care," Schopp said. "If we treat the whole person--mind and body--patients will have significantly better health outcomes. This new training program will allow people to help patients that do not have access to the psychological care that they need."

The HRSA Graduate Psychology Education program at MU is being led by Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions. Along with Schopp, the program is being assisted by Eric Hart, associate clinical professor of health psychology and training director; Renee Stucky, professor at the Comprehensive Pain Management Center in the MU School of Medicine; Nikole Cronk, associate teaching professor of family and community medicine in the MU School of Medicine; and psychologists from the MU department of health psychology.

This project is supported by HRSA of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number 1D40HP29827-01-00 for $699,772 over a three-year period. As required by the grant, MU provides some benefits to graduate students who contribute to this work. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.
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University of Missouri-Columbia

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