The Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) awarded a $955,466 grant to Western University of Health Sciences College of Graduate Nursing (CGN) to help implement a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program beginning in fall 2021.

CGN was one of seven programs to receive parts of $17.3 million in grants to help further build the pipeline of public mental health professionals in California.

These grants are being funded through the Workforce Education and Training program as part of the Mental Health Services Act, which is intended to address the shortage of mental health practitioners in the public mental health system. Collectively the grantees will add 36 Psychiatry Residency slots and fund 336 Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner slots. The funding will also help launch a new Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship program, according to a Sept. 15, 2020 press release issued by OSHPD.

“CGN is a leader in hybrid education for nurse practitioners,” said CGN Dean Mary Lopez, PhD, RN. “Currently, the number of nationally advertised PMHNP positions outpace other primary care positions. Adding the PMHNP program is an extension of CGN’s leadership and responsiveness to market demands and is a natural extension of current operations.”

CGN has a long history and dedication to providing care for vulnerable populations.  Curricula across the masters and doctoral programs at CGN include population health and vulnerability as key concepts. All CGN graduates have opportunities to work with vulnerable populations through course assignments, group projects, and clinical experiences. The PMHNP program will be a lifespan program, said Lopez.

As we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times, the uncertainty and fear related to the pandemic has brought about uneasy feelings that can further exacerbate mental health issues while creating additional barriers in accessing supports and services,” said Acting OSHPD Director Marko Mijic. “We must double down on our efforts to build our public mental health system in order to expand access to quality services to all Californians.”

In addition to an overall shortage, the public mental health system lacks a workforce that reflects the State’s cultural and linguistic diversity. This includes individuals with lived experience to provide consumer- and family-driven services that promote wellness, recovery, and resilience. OSHPD’s announcement is intended to help build new and existing training programs in order to help not only mitigate the shortage of providers but ensure that the providers reflect the communities they serve, according to OSHPD.