Pam Moore

CHHS has always been committed to training future professionals to serve the needs of the community. Now, thanks to a $1.1M federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), they’re even better equipped to do so. The grant, which is designated for the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, occupational therapy, and social work master’s programs, provides a stipend to 36 students across the three departments and supports innovative interdisciplinary training programs that will prepare students to serve children, adolescents, and young adults with behavioral health needs.

“We’re able to give 36 second-year students a stipend of $15,000, which is a huge benefit,” said Will Lusenhop, clinical associate professor of social work. Students from each of the three departments will use the funds to defray the costs of tuition, rent, groceries, or in whatever way they need.

The grant also funds interdisciplinary training programs, which is a vital, but not widely available, part of the students’ education. “There is a growing recognition of the need for interprofessional education, though it can be challenging to integrate training across departments,” said Lusenhop. “Through this grant, we’re giving students the skills to work with an interdisciplinary team.”

The new training programs feature leading edge technologies made available by the grant, including an evidence-based resource called Project ECHO and virtual reality. In partnership with the Institute for Health Policy and Practice, CHHS faculty are utilizing ECHO to develop problem-based, virtual learning opportunities for both students and professionals throughout the state. “We often have a bottleneck because there are only one or two experts with a deep understanding of a particular issue,” said Meredith Young, clinical assistant professor of social work. “But ECHO lets us come together as a community to learn from experts and from each other to better serve the community.”

Students can also access virtual reality to give them an opportunity to practice utilizing their skills in a low-stakes environment. “With help from the Center for Digital Health Innovation, we now use VR with the students to hone their practical skills and offer real-time feedback,” said Young. “Plus, it lets them ‘see’ the types of clients or situations they may not encounter during their clinical rotations.”

And the need for culturally competent behavioral health services for those 25 and younger has never been greater. “With wait lists as long as six months, this population is in significant crisis, and we don’t see that ending anytime soon,” said Young. “Through this grant, we’re increasing the supply of behavioral health providers for young people throughout New Hampshire.”