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$200k grant will help beef up mental health training in Idaho

A new grant is aimed at helping improve access to mental health help.

BOISE, Idaho — Ongoing staffing shortages and the surge of COVID-19 have taken a toll on the mental health of our community.

Those issues also affect our health care providers, who are dealing with illness day in and day out.

A new grant from Optum Idaho is hoping to provide more support to those who are keeping us all safe. Optum provided $200,000 to Echo Idaho, an education resource with the University of Idaho.

Those involved with Echo Idaho describe it as a curb-side chat for health care workers. The group's goal is to help our entire state get access to the care they need.

Right now, the program provides Idaho clinicians with an hour-long session that includes lectures, cases reviews, resource sharing and a place for open discussion. The grant from Optum Idaho means the group's work will expand to even more providers, according to Echo Idaho Director Lachelle Smith.

"It's a time to gather psychiatrists, pharmacists, nurses, psychologists, and social workers together," she said. "The needs that we are able to address is not only the knowledge that folks need to provide better care to their patients but also the stress and anxiety they might be dealing with themselves with the increased mental health needs in this time."

Optum Idaho Executive Director Georganne Benjamin says Idaho is already dealing with a shortage of mental health providers

In many cases, that leaves patients to rely on their primary care providers when struggling with their mental health.

"A study found that 60 percent of patients with behavioral health issues are treated solely in primary care, while 80 percent of antidepressants are prescribed by primary care providers," Benjamin said.

That's why Echo Idaho wants to bridge the gap and provide an extra cushion of support. Instead of people relying on their primary care clinics for mental health services, Smith says, this training will help anyone easily access quality mental health providers.

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