AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University is hoping to increase the number of mental health professionals in the Highplains to better serve rural and urban communities.
“WT has always been focused on rural health but we have some new initiatives that’s focusing on providing access to care in those areas,” Head of West Texas A&M’s Nursing Department, Dr. Holly Jeffreys said.
One of the university’s more recent initiatives is its Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program. Dr. Jeffreys said it is a new opportunity for students to help underserved rural communities in the panhandle.
“The patients in those communities suffer greater illness, typically older, they’re socio-economic level is typically lower than that of urbanized areas there’s definitely many barriers to their health,” Dr. Jeffreys explained.
Dr. Jeffreys said the post-graduate program will be available in January for the spring semester.
“Our first cohort will be admitted to the program and start our clinicals, and they’ll do classroom diagnostic as well as clinical,” Dr. Jeffreys added.
According to Dr. Jeffreys, rural areas will not be the program’s only focus.
“In general, suicide rates are higher than that of urbanized areas but Potter and Randall counties actually have higher suicide rates than the state have, so it’s not just rural,” Dr. Jeffreys said. “I want to make sure that even the urban areas such as Amarillo can benefit from this program.”
WT also hopes its students not only graduate with experience but also a chance to know they have made a difference.
“Our division of nursing and all of our students make such a huge difference in the patients’ lives and in our communities we serve,” Dr. Jeffries added.”
Dr. Jeffreys said there are less than 1,000 psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners in the state, and most of them serve in large metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth.
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