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Federal Grant to Address Behavioral Healthcare Training

By Betsy Hnath

Behavioral healthcare is a concern facing every segment of Virginia's population. Unfortunately, not all patients have access to care that is specific to their needs. An Old Dominion University professor aims to change that.

Kaprea Johnson, associate professor of counseling and human services, was recently awarded a $1.92 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve integrated behavioral health care training for master's level counselors and clinical supervisors.

Rather than relying on general practitioners to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, integrated care combines mental health services by trained counselors with primary care from a physician.

Johnson sees all components of the program essential to quality patient care.

"Integrated behavioral healthcare is here," Johnson said. "Through this grant, Old Dominion University is preparing 21st century counselors, advocates and leaders. The counseling students going through this program are the only students in the Hampton Roads areas receiving this specialized integrated behavioral healthcare training."

Johnson's program will promote culturally-intelligent behavioral health services to vulnerably underserved populations — children and seniors — who are often at risk and overlooked.

By incorporating both technology and experiential training, students will prepare for an increasingly demanding and virtual world. Telehealth, using telecommunications to deliver healthcare services, is one way the roughly 120 master's students will be trained during the four-year grant period.

Patients and practices locally will also benefit from the grant. ODU will collaborate with medical and health professionals to conduct specialized integrated care training and outreach to local Hampton Roads cities.

Though Johnson is pleased with the grant and the upcoming program, there's one group in particular she feels may benefit most.

"I am particularly excited about providing specialized geriatric training because this is the fastest growing population in the United States," she said. "This training will assist counselors in serving them more effectively and efficiently."

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