COLUMBIA, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday proposed awarding $20 million in grants to Missouri's colleges and universities to prepare 1,200 more students for employment in mental health.
Nixon said the funding would help the state make up a "critical shortage" of mental health workers. The governor said 104 counties and most of the city of St. Louis have been designated mental health shortage areas by the federal government. In addition, 72 of Missouri's 114 counties do not have a licensed psychiatrist, while 90 do not have a resident licensed behavioral analyst. Applied behavior analysis is used for treating autism spectrum disorders.
The governor plans to include money for the program in his recommendations' for next year's state budget. Lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Jan. 8.
"From teaching a child with autism how to interact with peers, to working with law enforcement to respond to a parent in mental health crisis, these health professionals will build on the work we've already done to strengthen communities and make sure Missourians have access to the care they need," Nixon said in a written statement.
Nixon traveled Wednesday to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Moberly Area Community College's center in Columbia. Nixon calls the initiative Caring for Missourians: Mental Health. Nixon in 2009 launched Caring for Missourians to increase the number of graduates in health care fields.
Under Nixon's proposal, the University of Missouri-Kansas City would receive $4.2 million to train clinical psychologists, child physiatrists and advanced nurse practitioners. The grant money would be used to hire new faculty members, expand programs and buy new equipment.
Moberly Area Community College is to receive $167,000 for classroom and lab space to train occupational therapy assistants and establish a new behavioral health technician certificate.
The largest grant would be $6.4 million for the University of Missouri-Columbia, which would go for preparing psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, physical therapists and licensed psychologists. It would establish new doctoral internship positions at the Fulton State Hospital.
Nearly two dozen school in all would receive funding, including about $1.7 million for Missouri State University and $1.3 million for Southeast Missouri State University.