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Plymouth State Wins $1.9 Million Grant to Fight Opioid Crisis
Published Thursday, October 26, 2017

Plymouth State University (PSU) won a $1.9 million Federal Behavioral Health and Workforce Education Training Program grant to expand mental health services in NH and to fight the opioid crisis. The funding will support PSU’s graduate programs in K-12 school psychology and school counseling, and clinical mental health counseling. This marks the third consecutive time since 2013 that PSU has received this grant, which is intended to grow the behavioral health workforce in rural and medically underserved areas.

“New Hampshire has a significant shortage of mental health professionals—the shortage of school psychologists is critical,” says Cynthia Waltman, professor of counselor education and school psychology at Plymouth State University. “These shortfalls create gaps in prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery support, especially in our most under-served communities and populations. Our program integrates graduate-level students into New Hampshire schools, mental health centers and, in the future, into correctional facilities, to gain practical experience, and at the same time assist practicing professionals who are stretched-thin.”

Approximately 70 percent of the program’s students are from NH and most remain and practice in-state upon graduation.

The PSU program will focus its efforts on integrated prevention and clinical intervention and treatment for at-risk youth and adults and their families, with an emphasis on meeting the needs of those who are at risk for mental illness and substance use, and who are least likely to seek help. The grant will support collaboration with statewide health centers, schools, community mental health centers and law enforcement agencies to address the state’s mental health shortfalls and the opioid crisis, as well as outreach to the state’s prison and refugee populations.

“The purpose of this grant and the goals outlined by faculty members align beautifully with PSU’s integrated clusters approach, which emphasizes real-world problem-solving through collaboration with community members, professionals and others,” says Donald L. Birx, PSU president. “Students are experiencing New Hampshire’s mental health challenges first-hand, and working with other professionals to find solutions and provide critical services to those who need them most.” Students and faculty members involved in the grant programming are from PSU’s Health and Human Enrichment and Innovation and Entrepreneurship clusters.

The four-year grant will provide financial support for 29 PSU graduate students per year. Since most cannot work full-time while pursuing graduate degrees and serving internships, many of which are unpaid, students receive a modest stipend.

In addition, the grant provides opportunities for students to attend regional and national conferences, and to participate in a three-day school crisis prevention and intervention training curriculum. PSU also hosts an annual Supervision Institute where national experts provide training for current and emerging site-supervisors who supervise PSU student-interns in the field.

“We are very proud of our program, and enormously appreciative of this grant which provides valuable financial support that allows us to continue to provide well-rounded, experienced, and dedicated mental health professionals to New Hampshire communities,” says Waltman.

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