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National initiative to boost rural behavioral health care training

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: 907-474-7902

02/28/08

A grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will establish a new University of Alaska Fairbanks program to increase the quality and relevance of behavioral health care in Alaska.

The $437,750, three-year grant will fund a project to create a four-stage career path for frontline behavioral health counselors in rural Alaska. The project, Jobs to Careers: Promoting Work-Based Learning for Quality Care, will develop a work-based learning approach and links between employers and higher education to strengthen career ladders for these counselors.

"Work-based learning is a unique model and approach because it provides reasonable access to education and training that directly benefits the employer, the workers, and the communities from day one," said project director Larry Roberts.

"New employees and other staff that have been heretofore stifled by limited access to skill development and a formal education are now able to learn as they earn without the disruption of having to leave home or family."

The UAF program is one of eight selected nationwide through a national initiative of the same name that supports a variety of projects to develop the skills of workers who deliver direct health care and services. The projects will be implemented in diverse settings, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, and community and behavioral health centers. The grants now support 17 projects nationwide. UAF's program will partner with a variety of organizations on the project: the Norton Sound Health Corporation, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education Mental Health Program, the Annapolis Coalition and UAF's Alaska Rural Behavioral Health Training Academy.

This is the second round of grants under Jobs to Careers, a four-year, $15.8 million national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in collaboration with the Hitachi Foundation and the U.S. Department of Labor. The program encourages partnerships among employers, educational institutions and other organizations to improve training and advancement opportunities for their frontline workers.

Workers who may benefit include medical assistants, health educators, laboratory technicians, home health aides, substance abuse counselors and dietary aides. Roberts noted that the university has, for nearly two decades, collaborated with workforce partners in efforts to train health providers for the state.

"Building upon the successes and lessons learned over the past 15 years, we are now ready and able to add this most important program to continue advancing this mandate," he said. "By recognizing the workplace as a true context for learning and practice, we now have the opportunity to advance work-based learning as an important educational model for behavioral health workforce in Alaska."

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

www.rwjf.org

About the Hitachi Foundation
The Hitachi Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, independent, philanthropic organization established to enhance the well-being of economically isolate people in the United States. The Foundation systematically invests in path-breaking practices for use by business and nonprofit organizations to mutually address community problems. These practices alleviate conditions that perpetuate poverty and also help to strengthen business.

www.hitachifoundation.org

CONTACT: Larry Roberts, project director, at 907-455-2056 or via e-mail at fflhr@uaf.edu. Marmian Grimes, UAF public information officer, at 907-474-7902 or via e-mail at marmian.grimes@uaf.edu.

ON THE WEB: www.jobs2careers.org http://www.uaf.edu/tarbh/ www.rwjf.org www.hitachifoundation.org

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