WICHE and UND to receive $3.8 million federal award to co-lead new Mountain Plains Mental Health Technology Transfer Center

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August 29, 2018


The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Behavioral Health Program and the University of North Dakota College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines have been selected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) to co-administer a new Mountain Plains Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MH–TTC).

The selection is accompanied by a five-year funding commitment of $3.8 million. The Mountain Plains (Region 8) encompasses Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah.

UND and WICHE are co-leading this effort, which began Aug. 15, to take advantage of their combined experience in behavioral health workforce development. Their efforts will address training and technical assistance needs of behavioral health treatment providers and administrators in these Mountain Plains states, whose predominance of frontier and rural communities increases their need for assistance in the provision of behavioral health services.

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 population of focus will be the public mental health workforce (both its leadership and its individual disciplines), encompassing pre-professional, postgraduate and continuing preparation. 

Thomasine Heitkamp, professor of graduate nursing at UND, will serve as principal investigator and co-director and Dennis Mohatt, vice president of the Behavioral Health Program at WICHE, will serve as co-director. Mountain Plains MH—TTC directors, faculty and staff will be based both at UND (drawing from existing faculty) and at WICHE (which, in addition to Mohatt, will draw from new hires and existing staff). Cumulatively they have an extensive footprint in the Mountain Plains region with a sustained commitment to assisting providers of mental health treatment services in advancing evidence-based practices to better serve those in need of support.

About WICHE: Established by Congress in 1953, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (one of four U.S. regional interstate compacts) houses a broad and ever-evolving array of initiatives to support states, students, and institutions throughout the American West. These include the Western Undergraduate Exchange, which saves 40,000-plus students $375 million annually in tuition; a report, Knocking at the College Door, that’s a preeminent resource for projections of college-age student populations; WCET, a leading U.S. convener for innovation in technology-enhanced learning; and more. WICHE core Behavioral Health Program has since 1955 served the behavioral health care needs of Western residents, and helped develop the workforce to serve them. Visit wiche.edu to learn more.

Peter Johnson (UND)