Dartmouth-Hitchcock gets new grant to train rural NH communities in mental health support | News

The Human Resources and Services Administration awarded Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital a $1.365 million grant to fund the training and mentoring of New Hampshire’s rural behavioral health staff. The budget will benefit the counties of Cheshire, Grafton, Coos, Sullivan, Carroll and Belknap.

Some of the most common difficulties in rural areas of the state include depression, alcohol and opioid use, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

The three-year grant aims to boost the behavioral health system in rural areas, which have a harder time recruiting and retaining the workforce due to isolation and pay gaps between private practice and community mental health centers.

According to Dartmouth-Hitchcock health officials, about a quarter of New Hampshire’s community center workforce turns over each year.

“It takes an average of 130 days in our rural community to fill a vacant position. So that’s a third of the year it takes to attract someone to come in and fill that position,” said Dr. Sally Kraft, Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s vice president of population health.

And the state’s mental health workforce isn’t as large as that of neighboring states.

New Hampshire has fewer licensed mental health care providers, social workers, licensed social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists than Vermont or Massachusetts, “by a significant amount in rural areas, where people cannot sometimes not find support,” Dr Kraft said.

“That’s why it’s extremely important to train and recruit licensed providers in our state to address unmet mental health care needs,” said Dr. Will Torrey, acting chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock School of Medicine.

The grant will also train community members such as teachers, school nurses and counselors to assist them in times of need in their areas.

Those interested in participating will be trained through a model called Project Echo, which offers virtual learning and mentoring. The program creates a virtual space to share work experiences with people who need help.

“That’s the kind of support we want to establish across the community, so everyone can say I have some understanding of how to be a good support, and I have skills and knowledge about how I can help my neighbor, my child, my employee,” Kraft says.

This article is shared by The Granite State News Collaborative partners. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

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