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WyGEC Receives $150,000 to Train Mental Health Professionals

October 28, 2008

The Wyoming Geriatric Education Center (WyGEC) at the University of Wyoming has received $150,000 in state funds to expand its innovative mental health services program.

The Wyoming Care with Confidence Project (WCCP), a partnership with the Wyoming Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division, addresses the state's critical gap between community mental health centers and nursing homes. Through the project, WyGEC trains mental health professionals to teach certified nursing assistants (CNAs) about how to work with problematic behaviors of residents in long-term care facilities.

The new funding will expand training of additional long-term care providers in Wyoming.

"This funding represents a legislative and state administration response to the growing need for training of front-line staff in long-term facilities," says WyGEC Director Deb Fleming. "By empowering nursing home staff and providing them with better tools to do their difficult jobs, we expect them not only to provide better care but be more satisfied with their jobs."

Using a curriculum developed by Rita Van Norman, a licensed clinical social worker at Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center, WCCP provides education about behaviors caused by dementia, depression and anxiety. The project's pilot program, conducted earlier this year, prepared six mental health professionals who have since trained 161 CNAs in 10 Wyoming facilities.

WyGEC, sponsored by the UW College of Health Sciences' School of Pharmacy, was founded last year with funding from a three-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration and additional funding from an endowment established by the John P. Ellbogen Foundation Excellence Fund for Geriatric Education.

The center's mission is to establish a solid foundation for quality geriatric education programs by training health professionals, faculty, students and clinicians to meet the health care needs of older adults in Wyoming's rural areas.

For more information on the WyGEC, call Fleming at (307) 766-2719.

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