A University of Wyoming professor received a nearly $1 million federal grant to promote integrated health care in the Cowboy State, which officials have said has a shortage of nurses.
Sarah Kooienga, an assistant nursing professor at UW’s School of Nursing, received the $998,332 grant to develop an “integrated behavioral health primary care initiative,” according to a university press release. She received the sum from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Service Administration.
Kooienga will work with other mental health and family nursing officials in Cheyenne to provide real-life clinical experience for UW nursing students and other aspiring health care professionals. As other leading hospital officials have noted to the Star-Tribune in past interviews, the state suffers a shortage of both nurses and behavioral health providers. Wyoming has some of the most expensive health care and one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation.
Some have attributed part of the shortage to Wyoming’s decision not to expand Medicaid, an option offered under the national Affordable Care Act.
“By providing an innovative model — which integrates behavioral health services into primary care — this model can be replicated across the state and potentially strengthen primary care and behavioral health care for all Wyoming residents,” according to the release.
The grant will be used to fund a registered nurse manager to strengthen that integration, the release says. The statement notes that rising health care costs can be prohibitive to people in need of mental health care; the Behavioral Health Initiative, as the project will be called, will work with existing structures in Cheyenne to identify people who need “higher level of care coordination” at an affordable cost.
“Having (a registered nurse) coordinator can increase services, provide greater continuity of care, decrease costs, and improve overall patients and families’ quality of life,” Kooienga said in the university’s statement.
By Seth Klamann, Star Tribune
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