COLUMBIA — Two Columbia-area higher education institutions could receive millions in funding to train new mental health professionals in a budget proposal announced by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Nixon outlined the proposal during a news conference Wednesday at Moberly Area Community College's Columbia Higher Education Center, saying he hopes to improve the state's mental health care system and stimulate the economy. Nixon said this proposal would address gaps in the state's mental health care system and create new, high paying jobs across the state.
Under the initiative, which will be a part of Nixon's fiscal 2015 budget proposal, MU would receive $6.4 million to train new mental health professionals. Nixon said Moberly Area Community College's Columbia branch would also receive $167,000.
Nixon said this measure is needed to improve the health of Missourians because of a critical shortage of trained mental health professionals in the state. Currently, 72 Missouri counties do not have a licensed psychiatrist, and 90 counties do not have a licensed applied behavioral analyst to provide therapy for patients suffering from autism spectrum disorders, Nixon said.
Nixon said Missouri colleges and universities have committed to graduating 1,200 mental health professionals under the initiative.
"These health professionals will build on the work we've already done to close dangerous gaps in our mental health system and make sure every Missourian has a fair shot to live up to their God-given potential," Nixon said.
Nixon also spoke about the potential economic impacts of the initiative, saying it would bring jobs to communities across the state.
Nixon also highlighted the economic impact the proposal would have on the Columbia area. Of the $20 million earmarked for the program, MU would be the largest single recipient, according to a news release from Nixon’s office. The money would be used to train more psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, physical therapists, licensed psychologists and behavioral analysts, Nixon said.
The money proposed for the Moberly Area Community College branch at Parkade Center would be used to build classroom and lab facilities, train new professionals and develop a certification program for behavioral health technicians.
"These are good jobs that are in demand now," Nixon said. "We just need the qualified professionals to fill them."