Discover Your Island

$1.66 Million Awarded to A&M-Corpus Christi to Close Gap in Mental Health Care Shortage

October 26, 2017

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – To meet the shortage of mental health care professionals in Texas, the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will be implementing the Texas Counselors and Healthcare Integration Project (Tex-CHIP) thanks to a federal grant. A study by the Hogg Foundation shows that 171 counties in Texas do not have a psychiatrist and only one out of five counties in Texas have a licensed professional counselor. There are multiple risks for untreated mental illnesses, including dropping out from college, job instability, substance abuse, criminal activity and risk of suicide.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has received a grant of $1.66 million from the Health Resources and Service Administration which will be doled out in a four-year time span. Dr. Stephen Lenz, Associate Professor of Counselor Education at A&M-Corpus Christi and Past-President of the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling, will work as the program coordinator.

“Workforce data has revealed that Nueces County and 18 surrounding counties are experiencing a significant shortage of mental health service providers, especially those who are trained to work with other related professionals to provide holistic treatment in our community,” said Lenz. “The Island University is a regional leader in counselor education and is ready to meet this need through our training program. We are going to provide financial support for our students, develop cutting-edge programming for them related to best practices and, along the way, train hundreds of professionals in Corpus Christi and surrounding areas.”

Tex-CHIP aims to alleviate the workforce shortage through graduating qualified behavioral health counselors who can deliver culturally relevant mental health counseling services. The medically underserved, especially those closer to the Texas-Mexico border where conditions worsen, are a high priority for the program. Thanks to the funding, Tex-CHIP will implement an annual interdisciplinary training series, place students in the community to complete fieldwork and host informational “lunch and learns.” Graduates will be provided free opportunities to continue their education for two years after graduating from A&M-Corpus Christi.

 “Tex-CHIP will serve as a vehicle for improving the status of mental health throughout Texas,” said Lenz. “Each of our students will enter the counseling field, provide state of the art services and eventually train the next generation of counselors using the practices that started at the Island University.”

By the end of the four-year span, 118 Islander graduate students will have received $1.18 million in financial support while learning evidence-based practices, developing their understanding of cultural influences on health outcomes and providing much needed services within our community.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the Island University to continue being a resource for Corpus Christi and the surrounding communities,” said Lenz. “When we support the development and well-being of individuals and families in our neighborhoods, the ripple effect of that positive change increases the potential for us all.”