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RICHMOND, Va., March 26, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — To address the shortage of mental health professionals in Virginia, the Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) has launched two initiatives: A scholarship program to increase the number of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners and a Continuing Medical Education Webinar for physicians and nurse practitioners who want to further develop their knowledge about prescribing behavioral health medicines.

The Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Scholarship Program will underwrite the full costs of tuition and required fees for Nurse Practitioners (NP) who work in Virginia’s health care safety net (free clinics and community health centers) and are interested in obtaining post master’s credentials as Psychiatric NPs (Psych NPs).
In return, those who become Psych NPs through the scholarships must agree to use their new knowledge and skills for two years in Virginia’s health care safety net. Full tuition and required fees for these courses average about $20,000 per NP. VHCF aims to award 10 scholarships.

There are only 106 licensed Psych NPs currently practicing in Virginia—less than one per locality. The demand for more is high as there is a growing realization about the important link between physical and mental health. Psych NPs are particularly valuable, because they are trained to prescribe the psychotropic medicines that are often essential to successful treatment.

VHCF has also underwritten the development of two Behavioral Health CME Webinars for physicians, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants who encounter patients with mental health conditions. The first webinar, “Pharmacotherapy for Psychiatric Disorders in Primary Care,” is now available at The second webinar, “Diagnostic Considerations for Psychiatric Disorders in Primary Care,” will be available in April 2014. Both webinars are accredited for Continued Medical Education by Virginia Commonwealth University.
Those who participate will be better equipped to diagnose and treat behavioral health conditions, and will feel more comfortable doing so. Ultimately, their patients who suffer from depression, anxiety and other similar illnesses will find relief from these debilitating diseases and be able to engage fully in their lives and improving their health.

Basic mental health issues such as anxiety and depression rank in the top three diagnoses in Virginia’s health care safety net. Virginia’s statewide shortage of behavioral health professionals impacts the health care safety net’s ability to recruit volunteer and paid mental health providers. Nearly 70% of Virginia localities are federally designated mental health professional shortage areas.

Contact: Debbie Oswalt
Executive Director
Virginia Health Care Foundation
(804) 828-5804

SOURCE Virginia Health Care Foundation



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