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New grant will help professionals at UND, across the western plains

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A new grant will help professionals at UND and throughout the western plains be better prepared to help those affected by serious mental health illness.

The UND College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines and the behavioral health program at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education have been selected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration to co-administer a new Mountain Plains Mental Health Technology Transfer Center.

Thomasine Heitkamp, professor of graduate nursing at UND, will serve as principal investigator and co-director of the center. Dennis Mohatt, vice president of the behavioral health program at WICHE, will also serve as co-director.

The five-year $3.8 million grant encompasses North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.

UND and WICHE are co-leading the effort, which began Aug. 15, to take advantage of their combined experience in behavioral health workforce development.

The focus of MH-TTC is to expand access to support for providers, especially those serving persons with serious mental illness or emotional disturbance. The center will focus on the public mental health workforce, encompassing pre-professional, postgraduate and continuing preparation.

"Information comes so fast, and having a center that can sort through information and get that information out to people providing services which can advance their use of the best practices makes the whole system better," she said. "It makes the capacity to improve outcomes for clients better when we're using what we know is the best science."

Heitkamp said the MH-TTC is an interprofessional approach. While Heitkamp's background is social work, people with a psychology, occupational therapy, psychiatry and nursing backgrounds will also be involved.

Heitkamp said that most of the states included in WICHE are also fairly rural, so the grant will allow them to work through various tribal and rural issues, something that also falls into UND's grand challenges.

"This helps rural communities by ensuring that they have a trained workforce and expertise on the ground through technical assistance," she said.

Mountain Plains directors, faculty and staff will be based both at UND and at WICHE, which is located in Colorado.

"I'm proud that North Dakota will house something throughout the region and will work collaboratively with our partners in Colorado."

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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