The received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to contribute to the development and expansion of the substance abuse and mental health workforce. The department seeks to train 1,800 additional behavioral health professionals per year through this grant program.

APU’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training for Professionals proposal represented a collaborative effort led by Sabrina Friedman, Ed.D., DNP, FNP-C, PMHCNS-BC, FAPA, associate professor of nursing, and included Bonita L. Huiskes, Ph.D., RN, FNP-BC, assistant professor and chair of the Master of Science in Nursing programs, and James F. Adams, MSN, RN, PMHCNS-BC, assistant professor and director of the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner programs, along with the support of community partners. With these funds, the School of Nursing plans to prepare qualified psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners. “The 2013 Community Needs Assessment, conducted by Citrus Valley Health Partners and Kaiser Permanente in the San Gabriel Valley, identified mental health as the number one need, and that 51.4 percent of the individuals requiring help for mental, emotional, alcohol, and drug issues did not receive treatment,” said Aja Tulleners Lesh, Ph.D., RN, dean of the School of Nursing. “The Affordable Care Act provides reimbursement for mental health, but we need experienced and highly qualified practitioners to provide those services.”

APU’s nursing students will receive special training that focuses on youths who have developed a recognized behavioral health disorder and 16–25-year-olds who are at risk for mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide—those least likely to seek continuous help. The grant will also expand nursing students’ mental health clinical placements and promote employment opportunities for graduates of the MSN with Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Specialty program. Distributed over the next three years, the grant will support approximately 80 full-time students in their last year of field placement while enhancing their didactic learning experiences. “This significantly increases our ability to educate psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners and place them in community agencies to meet the mental health needs of children, adolescents, and transitional-age youth,” said Lesh.