WSC gets million-dollar grant to support behavioral health care in rural counties

WAYNE, Neb. -- An infusion of money is coming into a northeast Nebraska college in an effort to increase access to behavioral health care in rural communities.

Wayne State College announced Thursday that it has received the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) for Professionals grant for $1,067,689 over a four-year period. The grant is meant to strengthen the relationship between WSC and the college's experiential training sites in northeast Nebraska. More than $660,000 of the funds has been earmarked for scholarships for students in Wayne State’s graduate program in clinical mental health.

The project supported by the grant aims to increase access to behavioral health care for rural and other high-demand populations, including the 40 counties without a mental health provider. Graduates of Wayne State’s clinical mental health counseling program will be encouraged to practice in underserved communities and serve as supervisors at experiential training sites for future clinical mental health counseling students.

“Just speaking about how important this is at the institutional level, this grant marks a change in the aggressiveness of Wayne State to seek opportunities to help us better serve our region,” said Dr. Nicholas Shudak, Dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Science at Wayne State. “I am thankful and grateful for the team that helped me put this together, and especially, for our regional partners. I am hopeful this grant has a powerful and sustaining impact on behavioral health for years to come.”

Wayne State will initially partner with eight experiential training sites in the three-county target market of Holt, Madison, and Platte counties. Each site has the capacity to train at least one WSC clinical mental health counseling students, and four sites can train up to two counseling students at a time.

“The HRSA grant allows WSC to be a leader in rural investment,” said Dr. Alison Boughn, department chair and assistant professor in the School of Education and Behavioral Science. “We recognize the difficulties our neighboring communities are facing in their efforts to access and maintain quality clinical mental health providers. With the implementation of the HRSA grant, we can start the conversations for adequate wages for our clinical providers to remain in rural communities as they provide accessible mental health care. This also ensures WSC can develop a stable model of support and consultation for our local providers to expand their network of care across our underserved region.”