When presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced a “comprehensive” mental health agenda that recognizes some 40 million Americans are coping with a mental health problem, it was a pretty good indicator of how far public awareness has come in understanding the toll that mental illness can take on individuals, families and communities. By most accounts, raised awareness is a good thing.
The challenge is that it also increases demand for mental health professionals – a demand, as we noted in a 2014 commentary, for which many health care settings are not prepared. This has led to widespread interest in the recruitment and preparation of psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) as primary mental health providers, especially because they are knowledgeable prescribers.
That demand is also a driver for a recent partnership between UC San Francisco School of Nursing and the San Francisco VA Health Care System, which is charged with addressing the often demanding mental health needs of the area’s military veterans. One of 18 Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnerships in Graduate Education (VANAP-GE) around the country, the UCSF-SFVA project is a five-year collaboration focused on both scholarship and clinical training for PMHNPs. In addition to providing rotations for PMHNP students, the partnership includes a rare postgraduate residency, the first of its kind in California.