United Health Foundation Announces Grant to Help Improve Access to Behavioral Health Services in Rural Colorado

November 26, 2019
giving a speech

The United Health Foundation announced a three-year, $1.5 million grant to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence. Pictured left to right: North Range Behavioral Health Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist Dan Frantz, Center Board Member and Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist Ruby Martinez, Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, Sen. Cory Gardner and UHC Government Programs CEO Brian Thompson (at podium).

The United Health Foundation will make a three-year, $1.5 million grant to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence (the Center) to address the shortage of mental health providers in rural Colorado communities. In Colorado, behavioral health challenges are particularly pressing for the state’s 750,000 rural residents. Rural Colorado youth are twice as likely to commit suicide as their urban peers. In 2017, the average suicide rate of rural Colorado was 30 per 100,000 compared to the state suicide rate of 20 per 100,000 – a difference of 40%.

“I want to commend the United Health Foundation and the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence for their innovative partnership to improve access to behavioral health care services,” said Senator Cory Gardner. “A ZIP code should never stand in the way of quality health care, and this collaboration will ensure expanded capacity to better serve the needs of Coloradans living in all four corners of our state.”

The Goal of the Fellowship Program

The United Health Foundation grant will help the Center recruit and support 39 currently-employed rural Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Behavioral Health Fellows return to graduate school and earn a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certificate. Fellows will receive application assistance, a financial stipend and support in securing their required 600 hours of behavioral health clinical practice.

“APRNs are essential for providing primary and behavioral health care in rural and underserved communities, and there is a pressing need for expanded behavioral health services in rural Colorado,” said Brian Thompson, chief executive officer, Unitedhealthcare Government Programs. “This partnership with the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence will help rural Colorado residents lead healthier lives by training APRNs to provide the right care in the right place at the right time.”

Once they are certified, the 39 PMHNPs will commit to a minimum of two years of integrated behavioral health rural practice and provide behavioral health care services to an estimated 12,000 rural Colorado patients annually – increasing the behavioral health capacity of rural clinics by approximately 25%.

“As thousands of rural Coloradoans struggle with mental health, these types of partnerships between nonprofits like the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence and companies like UnitedHealth Group will be critical to expanding access to much needed behavioral health care services,” said Colorado Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera. “I am thankful for United Health Foundation’s generous partnership to help train local nurses who are on the ground and delivering critical care to those who need it most. This is an exciting day for Colorado and a great opportunity to keep improving the health of our most vulnerable neighbors.”

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