New program aims to ease shortage of psychiatric mental health care workers in Omaha

An expert discusses the shortage of mental health care in the community
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 6:44 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Mental health conditions are dramatically increasing worldwide and it’s becoming harder for places that provide help to keep up.

Robin Conyers, CHI’s VP of Behavioral Health services said COVID is to blame because it brought challenges to the workforce and a higher demand for those in need of mental health care.

“Mental illness impacts one and five some of the statistics since COVID one and four,” Conyers said.

So, CHI Health and Creighton University got creative.

They partnered together to create a one-year online scholarship program for people who are current nurse practitioners.

“It’s going to then expand their skill set so that they will be responsive to the needs of their patients and communities,” said Sara Banzhaf with the Creighton University College of Nursing.

The program will train experienced nurses in psychotherapy, psychiatric evaluation and assessment, how to prescribe medications and more.

Banzhaf says this will not only add an extra skill set but provide the sustainability this works force needs.

“They have the opportunity then to add a dual certification to their specialization,” Banzhaf said. “We felt like it was a way to increase the workforce of psychiatric mental health.”

Conyers says their intent is to create trust and better access between the specialist and the patient.

“It allows for our specialists, our psychiatrist nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists to see patients who have more complex needs,” Conyers said.

Creighton is set to launch the program in May of 2023 with four students. The program is funded by the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska.