The Arizona State University College of Nursing & Health Innovation has been selected as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Outreach Partner for 2011 through 2013 for the state of Arizona, Dean Bernadette Melnyk announced. The College of Nursing & Health Innovation joins a nationwide network of 55 mental health organizations that disseminate research from NIMH about the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders, and promote public involvement in research studies. It is the only college of nursing and health in the U.S. selected as an NIMH Outreach Partner.

Since 1990, through its Outreach Partnership Program, NIMH has supported organizations from every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to educate the public about mental disorders, and help to reduce the stigma of mental illness. "It is an honor and important responsibility to be named the NIMH Outreach Partner for such a significant health issue in our state in these times," Dean Melnyk said. "One of 10 adults over age 18 in Arizona reports being currently depressed and approximately one in 4 children have a mental health problem. The majority of individuals with mental health conditions do not receive treatment."

Shortage of mental health professionals dire

The ASU dean noted that the state has a severe shortage of mental health providers with 120 child psychiatrists and none in five of Arizonas 15 counties, as well as only 34 psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners. The shortage results in a much lower healthcare provider-to-patient ratio than the national average.

As the NIMH Outreach Partner, the College of Nursing & Health Innovation will function as the chief coordinator for several key collaborators who will work together to disseminate NIMH research throughout Arizona. Dean Melnyk, who is a certified Child-Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, will be the primary contact and executive director of the partnership.

The ASU college has the capability of disseminating NIMH research far beyond the downtown campus area through its students, evidence-based practice network, nurse-managed health centers, and professional networks across the state. Its extensive network is possible in large part due to established relationships within the community and more than 700 contracts for student clinical education and practice in place with clinical agencies across the state.

Dean Melnyk said the college is broadening its network to reach a diverse population of all age groups that could benefit from more timely and wider exposure to NIMH research. The proposed network will include representation from the community, including TERROS, a community-based behavioral health organization that helps people recover from substance abuse, mental illness and other behavioral health problems; the Arizona Department of Health Services; other ASU colleges and institutes; and professional organizations, such as the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Strengths as outreach partner significant

The College of Nursing & Health Innovation also is positioned strongly on an operational basis to serve as the Arizona NIMH Outreach Partner. It has the only graduate child-family and adult psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner programs in the state and operates the Southwest Health Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child & Adolescent Depression and Anxiety. It also is conducting a $2.3 million NIH-funded five-year study in several Phoenix high schools to test interventions to solve the nationwide epidemics of depression and obesity among minority youth with health disparities. Dean Melnyk is the principal investigator.

Research strength of college

Research is a strength of the college, which has 55 research-active faculty who are continually advancing research in all aspects of healthcare. Placing 11th in NIH funding among colleges of nursing in the country in 2009, the colleges research involves professional collaborators from other academic disciplines and community organizations throughout the state.

The National Institute of Mental Health is one of 27 components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal government's principal biomedical and behavioral research agency. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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