NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

$1.5 Million Grant Brings Psychiatric Nurses To Rural Colorado

United Health Foundation
(Left to right) Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence CEO Ingrid Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Government Programs CEO Brian Thompson, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera pose after grant announcement at the University of Northern Colorado.

Rural Coloradans may have better access to psychiatric care soon.

The United Health Foundation awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence to address a shortage of mental health providers in rural areas. The grant will recruit and support 39 working rural Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Behavioral Health Fellows while they earn a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certificate.

Colorado's rural communities have some on the highest suicide rates in the state. This is an issue the fellowship plans to address, according to Patrick Gordon, UnitedHealthcare Community & State CEO for Colorado.

"We're going to further work to integrate behavioral health and primary care services in established clinics and hospitals and lower barriers to accessing behavioral health services."

Fellows will receive application assistance, a financial stipend and support services to help complete the certificate program requirements.

The three-year fellowship is targeted at experienced nurses, Gordon said, because they already have patients and can make a big impact quickly. The grant allows the workforce to grow and will create new opportunities in rural communities.

"Nurses are in a great position to meet people where they are," Gordon said. "Work in a wide variety of settings, particularly in primary care settings, and build upon skills that they already have."

After completing the program, participants will be required to stay in rural areas for at least two years. The nurses will treat an estimated 3,000 to 12,000 patients annually, which is expected to increase rural clinics' behavioral health care services capacity by about 25%.

Related Content