U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representatives Joe Courtney (CT-2) and Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) on Friday applauded a $600,000 grant to the University of Connecticut (UConn) and Western Connecticut State University from the Health Resources and Services Administration received through the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program. The BHWET program, which was reauthorized as part of Murphy’s recently enacted Mental Health Reform Act, seeks to expand the behavioral health workforce and train new mental health providers, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and paraprofessionals. UConn will receive $178,544 to recruit, train and place social workers in underserved areas of Connecticut with a focus on integrated care. Western Connecticut State University will receive $420,522 to increase the number of school and clinical mental health counselors who can provide trauma-informed mental health services to children, adolescents, and adults.

“Too many kids and adults with mental health needs in this country don’t get the timely care they need for one reason: we don’t have enough trained behavioral health specialists to care for them,” said Murphy. “I worked hard to reauthorize this grant program as part of my Mental Health Reform Act because I believe that it should be as easy to access a doctor or get prescriptions for an illness of the mind as it is for an illness of the body. This $600,000 will increase the number of trained and certified mental health providers in Connecticut, and get more of our state’s residents the proven, high-quality mental health care they deserve.”

“This federal funding will increase the number of trained mental health providers in our state, making vital mental health services more accessible to children, adolescents, and adults. It’s time we commit resources—not just rhetoric—in ensuring mental health needs are fully met in our schools and in our communities. I’ll continue to support federal programs that make access to quality affordable mental health services a reality for everyone in Connecticut,” said Blumenthal.

“This federal funding will bring real positive change to many folks across Connecticut who live with mental illness. In addition to the stigma surrounding mental illness that prevents too many from getting the help they need and deserve, we face a serious shortage of trained mental health professionals in our state. We are pleased to have helped secure funds for UConn and WestConn to better train and support social workers who are committed to meeting that need. Our friends and neighbors coping with the challenges of mental illness deserve nothing less,” said Esty.

As grant recipients, UConn and Western Connecticut State University will help close the gap in access to behavioral health care services by recruiting new behavioral health professionals and providing opportunities for field placement, job placement, and career development services. These efforts will help increase the number of adequately prepared behavioral health providers serving Connecticut residents.

Among other things, Murphy’s bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act strengthened enforcement of mental health parity laws, promoted integrated mental health and physical health, and established new programs to assist those with, or at risk for, mental illness.