MU will use one-time funding toward 'Caring for Missourians'

Monday, June 8, 2009 | 7:59 p.m. CDT; updated 9:35 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 8, 2009

COLUMBIA — MU will use Caring for Missourians funds to increase the number of health care graduates from the university.

In a press conference Monday, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and House Budget Chairman Allen Icet emphasized that funding for the Caring for Missourians program is one-time funding, and each university can decide whether it wants to use its money  to implement this program.

“We are seeking to heighten the profile of this issue, so we can have an honest discussion with all the cards on the table and not have anyone forced or intimidated into this program,” Kinder said.

Some campus leaders are under the impression they have to use the funds for the Caring for Missourians initiative, said Gary McElyea, a spokesman for Kinder.

However, the language in House Bill 3, which allocated the money, is flexible and can be used for whatever the universities' priorities are, Icet said.

MU nursing, medical and health professions will use the one-time funds to make changes to temporarily increase health professions graduates, said Kristofer Hagglund, associate dean of the MU School of Health Professions.

“We know if one physician opens up a clinic in a community in this state, that on a yearly basis, that means more than $1 million of economic development for that community,” Hagglund said. "Other health professions can also have dramatic effects on the community's economic development, but more importantly, providing care that is needed."

Health Professions plans to use some of the funds for lab and classroom renovations, Hagglund said.

“We feel like it is our duty to increase the number of health professions graduates for the state,” Hagglund said.

The Sinclair School of Nursing at MU plans to use its funds to increase the number of students in two programs.

The school has an accelerated bachelor of science program that enables students with other degrees to complete the nursing program in 15 months, said Judith Fitzgerald Miller, dean of Sinclair School of Nursing. They also plan to use the funds in the doctoral and doctorate of nursing practice programs in hopes of preparing nurse educators, she said.

In order to prepare 20 more students, the school will use the money for additional lab equipment, educational technology and faculty, Fitzgerald Miller said.

“We can’t take in more students because we don’t have enough teachers of nurses in this country,” Fitzgerald Miller said. “The American Association of Colleges of Nursing surveyed all of their member schools in the nation in 2008 and found 50,000 qualified applicants were turned away because of lack of faculty and lack of clinical placement sites.”

Fitzgerald Miller said, “There is a desperate need for teachers of nursing, and we’re very excited to meet the needs for developing providers of care for the state of Missouri.”

The Medical School will receive $5,996,160, Sinclair School of Nursing $1,715,920 and the School of Health Professions will receive $1,616,316 toward their programs, according to a report provided by David Russell, senior associate vice president and chief of staff for the UM System.

Other than MU, the UM System campuses in Kansas City and St. Louis will also use the funding toward their programs, Russell said. University officials are still considering the best way to use the funds at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, he said.

“We have modified it (the program) to train as many as 216 students in the various health care professions. Increasing the capacity of our facilities will enable us to make some of those spaces permanent,” Russell said.

Originally, the budget was set up to support each one of the students through their education, he said.

“If we don’t think we can support them, we won’t take on the additional student load,” he said.

University officials developed this plan with other four-year and two-year colleges in the state, and it received the support of former Gov. Matt Blunt and Gov. Jay Nixon, Russell said.

“It’s the university’s intention that we expend those additional funds to provide more health care workers for the state of Missouri,” Russell said.

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