Premera Blue Cross invests in the University of Washington

Mountlake Terrace, Washington, Dec. 08, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Premera Blue Cross today announced a $6.6 million grant to the University of Washington (UW) for the UW Psychiatry Fellowship for Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs). An innovative program in the region, the fellowship will host up to four ARNP psychiatric fellows each year beginning in 2023. The training, which includes rotations in primary care clinics and a new behavioral health teaching facility at UW Medical Center – Northwest, will focus on inpatient, outpatient, telemedicine consultation and integrated mental health care for mental illness.

This investment continues Premera’s focus on addressing the growing mental health crisis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults and one in six adolescents ages 6 to 17 in Washington suffers from a mental disorder each year. However, more than half of people – both adults and adolescents – with a mental illness have not received treatment in the past year.

While stigma continues to be a barrier to seeking care, the shortage of providers presents an additional challenge. In Washington, 35 of 39 counties nationwide are identified as mental health professional shortage areas with limited access to providers such as clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, mental health nurses, as well Marriage and family therapists. Additionally, in nearly half of the state’s counties – all rural areas – there is not a single psychiatrist offering direct patient care.

“If we are to see improvements in healthcare in the future, we must invest in sustainable solutions now,” said Jeffrey Roe, President and CEO of Premera Blue Cross. “The University of Washington continues to find innovative ways to provide greater access to mental health care. Developing a strong workforce means communities will benefit for years to come.”

The training offered through this fellowship will enable psychiatric nurses to further develop their expertise and serve in a variety of roles in Washington. This includes serving as a psychiatric consultant within the Collaborative Care Model and using her expertise in partnership with primary care teams for patients in both urban and rural settings. The Collaborative Care Model, developed at UW Medicine to treat common and persistent mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, integrates mental health services in primary care clinics with regular psychiatric case consultation for patients who are not doing better than expected.

“Our future grantees will transform access to effective mental health care across Washington state through collaboration, community support, and sustained access to evidence-based care for patients and families,” said Dr. Anna Ratzliff, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“This fellowship will prepare a new pipeline of psychiatric mental health nurses for leadership roles in complex clinical care settings, mentor other mental health nurses and interprofessional mental health providers, and improve equitable access to mental health care,” said Azita Emami, Executive Dean, UW School of Nursing. “This program, developed in collaboration between the University of Washington Schools of Nursing and Medicine and UW Medical Center, will serve as a precedent for expanding the collaborative education and training efforts into other specialties,” said Tatiana Sadak, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UW School of Nursing.

This investment builds on Premera and the UW’s goal to improve health outcomes across Washington, including:

  • Premera’s $10 million investment in 2019 in the UW School of Medicine to support the integration of the collaborative care model into primary care clinics in rural areas. To date, 23 clinics have implemented the collaborative care model through this grant.
  • A $4.7 million grant from Premera in 2020 to the UW School of Nursing, which created the Rural Nursing Health Initiative. This program has placed nearly 40 ARNP students in rural practices in Washington.

This joint advanced clinical training program also represents a unique partnership between the UW School of Medicine and the UW School of Nursing – two premier schools at the University of Washington. The UW School of Nursing is the nation’s top public nursing school with a Doctor of Nursing Practice program, according to US News and World Report, while the UW School of Medicine has the nation’s top primary care education and training program. The UW School of Medicine also has the largest psychiatric residency program in the country with more than 90 residents being trained at any given time. It serves as the training facility for the ARNP grantees and is the only academic psychiatric department serving the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho area.

These investments are part of Premera’s broader strategy to improve access to care in rural areas, which particularly focuses on recruiting and training doctors, nurses and health workers; clinical integration of behavioral health; programs to increase the capacity of mental health crisis centers in rural areas; and small appliance grants to rural vendors.

About Premera Blue Cross

Premera Blue Cross, a not-for-profit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association based in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, is a leading healthcare plan in the Pacific Northwest, providing comprehensive healthcare and tailored services to more than 2.75 million people, ranging from individuals to to Fortune 100 companies.

About the UW School of Nursing

The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently a top-ranked nursing school, ranked #1 among public nursing schools with a DNP program, according to US News & World Report. The UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The School addresses society’s most pressing healthcare challenges through innovative teaching, award-winning research and community service. Visit www.nursing.uw.edu for more information.

About the UW School of Medicine

The UW School of Medicine serves a five state region: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI). US News & World Report currently ranks the UW School of Medicine first in the nation for primary care education and training and second in the nation for NIH research grants with $1.3 billion in fiscal 2020. The school has about 4,800 medical students and trainees.

  • The new behavioral health teaching facility at UW Medical Center – Northwest

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