Wayne State College has received a four-year grant for about $1.06 million to support experiential training programs for students in Northeast Nebraska.

The Health Resources and Services Administration Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training for Professionals grant was given through a local project aiming to increase access to behavioral health care for rural and other high-demand populations — including the 40 counties without a mental health provider, according to a college media release. More than $660,000 of the funds also has been earmarked for student scholarships in Wayne State’s graduate clinical mental health program.

Graduates of the program will be encouraged to practice in underserved communities and serve as supervisors at experiential training sites for future clinical mental health counseling students.

“Just speaking about how important this is at the institutional level, this grant marks a change in the aggressiveness of Wayne State to seek opportunities to help us better serve our region,” said Nicholas Shudak, dean of the school of education and behavioral science at Wayne State. “I am thankful and grateful for the team that helped me put this together and especially for our regional partners. I am hopeful this grant has a powerful and sustaining impact on behavioral health for years to come.”

Wayne State will initially partner with eight experiential training sites in the three-county target market of Holt, Madison and Platte counties. Each site has the capacity to train at least one Wayne State clinical mental health counseling student, and four sites can train up to two counseling students at a time.

“The grant allows Wayne State to be a leader in rural investment,” said Alison Boughn, department chair and assistant professor in the school of education and behavioral science. “We recognize the difficulties our neighboring communities are facing in their efforts to access and maintain quality clinical mental health providers. With the implementation of the grant, we can start the conversations for adequate wages for our clinical providers to remain in rural communities as they provide accessible mental health care.”

The statewide project, titled “Addressing Rural Behavioral Health Needs Through Clinical Placements and Supervision,” has several goals for Wayne State:

— Prepare 60 grant-funded clinical mental health counseling students to practice in rural Northeast Nebraska upon graduation.

— Recruit, retain and graduate a diverse cadre of trainees reflective of the populations to be served.

— Increase the number of Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs qualified clinical training supervisors by 40.

— Improve interdisciplinary care knowledge and skills for students, faculty and experiential training site supervisors.

— Improve telehealth skills for students, faculty and experiential training site supervisors.

— Provide funding for $10,000 stipends to 66 clinical mental health counseling graduate students in their final experiential training.

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Want to learn more?

Contact Nicholas Shudak at 402-375-7164 or learn more about the college’s Masters in Counseling program at www.wsc.edu/mse-counseling.

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