WCHHS hosts Delegate Yost for announcement on mental health grant

Photo of Yost

Delegate Joseph Yost, 12th District and Radford University ’06, M.S. '08, called for a new chapter in the treatment of mental illness in his keynote speech at the "Mental Health in the New River Valley" forum on Sept. 12 at RU.

For the more than 100 campus and community guests at the event, Yost identified three obstacles to a new paradigm of mental health treatment: stigma, a fragmented delivery system and unfair treatment limitations on the increasingly pervasive condition.

The event, sponsored by RU’s Waldron College of Health and Human Services (WCHHS), announced the launch of a series of WCHHS programs focused on improved regional mental health care. Funded by a $750,000 Advanced Nursing Education Grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the program will be dedicated to improving access to health care by strengthening the health care workforce, building healthy communities and achieving health equity.

“We must work for a welcoming and compassionate society, a society where no one is dismissed and no one is forgotten,” Yost said. “This is the great and hopeful story of our commonwealth and nation. Together, we can write another chapter.”

Yost congratulated Assistant Professor of Nursing Vicki Bierman '77, B.S.N. '98, M.S.N. '04, and the WCHHS for the grant. He expressed his optimism about the impact that subsequent programs can have on the New River Valley. Yost also noted that RU is now positioned to be a regional leader in that effort.

Bierman will be primary investigator for the three-year grant, titled "CARE: Collaboration, Awareness, Resources and Education." It will include three components:

  • a psychiatric/mental health concentration and certification program for Nurse Practitioners and Doctors of Nursing Practice serving rural communities
  • a continuing education program for health professionals devoted to chronic disease management for patients with mental health issues
  • an interprofessional curriculum to engage the various WCHHS specialties in mental health treatment

"It is painfully obvious that individuals with emotional issues have poor health outcomes. This is largely due to treatable medical conditions," said Bierman. "One way we can help is by training psych mental health practitioners and nurse practitioners who are well equipped to address the medical as well as psychosocial needs of this population."

According to Virginia Health Foundation data cited by both Yost and Bierman, there are only 133 licensed psychiatric nurse practitioners in the Commonwealth of Virginia and only 106 currently practicing. The shortage impairs patient outcomes and hampers integrated delivery of behavioral health services and medical care to those suffering from mental health issues or issues compounded by chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

RU Provost Sam Minner introduced Yost with a poignant personal story of how his family had been affected by problems associated with mental health and treatment. Minner called mental health and treatment issues “an American tragedy.” He then introduced Yost as “a champion of this cause in our region and in our state who is fighting the good fight.”

RU can now address the shortage of healthcare providers on behalf of persons with behavioral health issues and multiple chronic diseases by preparing professionals who can deliver patient-centered care. Also included in the program will be outreach to regional clinics by nurse practitioners, DNP candidates and students from the RU departments of Social Work, Occupational Therapy and Communication Sciences and Disorders.

An Interprofessional Education (IPE) consortium within the WCHHS will also be created to enhance interdisciplinary work among the college’s various specialties.

"We are excited for the opportunity to provide graduate students the opportunities to learn the roles of other professions and develop working relationships with their peers and colleagues," Bierman said. "That same tradition will also deepen within our departments. Our targeted population requires multiple specialties. On behalf of our patients and communities, we can develop ways to work together as a team and help our advanced practice students as they transition into the modern health care environment.”

"With this grant, Dr. Bierman and her colleagues will be able to implement additional practices that address the complexities of today’s health care," said WCHHS Dean Kenneth Cox. "We don’t work in isolation anymore; we work in teams. The programs that emerge from this exciting opportunity will help us further step out of our silos and foster true interprofessional practice and service.

Sep 15, 2014