College of Education to support mental health in rural Utah schools

The University of Utah College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology will offer training, technical assistance and support for school mental health services in rural Utah schools with funding from Cambia Health Solutions and the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

Mental health issues have worsened since COVID-19 without a parallel increase in providers and services, and many rural areas were already plagued by a lack of mental health resources before the pandemic. Cambia Health Solutions, in recognition of this need, has committed $11.5 million to increase access to critical mental health services in Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The University of Utah will receive $1 million for a collaborative project between the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) and the College of Education. HMHI will research and develop a workforce plan that includes placing psychiatric residents and fellows in rural communities and the College of Education will focus on K-12 schools in rural Utah and underserved districts across the state.

The program director, Aaron Fischer, said, “Our program will create a network to provide services to educators and students. We are building on our earlier Cambia-funded efforts to bring a variety or resources into schools and a network that includes local pediatricians and psychiatrists.” The College of Education’s work will also include developing screening and prevention supports, mental health training and coordination of services between community and school providers.

Research has shown that mental health interventions at an early age result in better health later in life. In rural Utah, early intervention can be extremely difficult with few programs available. The University of Utah’s College of Education will step into these gaps, providing critical mental health resources in 10 K-12 schools and establishing a network of trained educators, pediatricians and psychologists.

College of Education Dean Nancy Butler Songer notes that the program is arriving at the right time. “We are so grateful to our partner HMHI and for the financial support of Cambia Health Solutions. The pandemic has taken mental health challenges and intensified their effects. Dr. Fischer’s work is needed now more than ever. Mental health isn’t a light switch that can be turned off and on, and even after we return to normal many children and adolescents will struggle with depression and other mental health challenges. This program makes sure there is a safety network there to screen for and treat the mental health of these kids.”

With a generous gift from Cambia Health Solutions and HMHI, the College of Education can address the mental health of kids across Utah, ensuring a brighter future for them, their families and the communities in which they live.

About Cambia Health Solutions

Cambia Health Solutions, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is dedicated to transforming health care. We put people at the heart of everything we do as we work to make the health care system more economically sustainable and efficient for people and their families. Our company reaches nearly 70 million Americans nationwide, including more than 3.1 million people in the Pacific Northwest who are enrolled in our regional health plans. To learn more about us, visit  cambiahealth.com  or twitter.com/cambia.

Media Contacts

Paul Gabrielsenresearch/science communications specialist, University of Utah Communications
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