JMU residency will increase counseling in Page County next spring

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substance-abuse-counselor

~ Re-published with permission from James Madison University News on jmu.edu

By Eric Gorton

HARRISONBURG — Page County doctors will get some much-needed help beginning in spring 2022 when James Madison University launches a residency program for doctoral students training to become advanced counseling practitioners or counselor educators. 

With a $712,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, planning for the residency started in May, said Robin Anderson, head of the graduate psychology program at JMU. 

The doctoral students will assist physicians who provide medication-assisted treatment to patients with substance use disorders. The program will increase access to quality substance use and behavioral health services in Page County, a Health Professional Shortage Area, with an emphasis on addressing barriers to service for minority and marginalized persons. 

“Our goal is to establish a long-term residency program in Page County that will provide mental health and nursing support to our doctor partners so we can expand the MAT services in the county,” said Anderson, a Page County native who graduated from Luray High School. 

Kelly Atwood, an assistant professor of graduate psychology and director of Counseling and Psychological Services, the training clinic for the department of graduate psychology, said the clinic has partnered with primary care providers at Page Memorial Hospital for the past 17 years to offer increased access to mental health care while providing students the opportunity to learn with, from, and about clients and providers across disciplines. 

The latest grant “grew out of this long-term partnership when providers identified a shortage of behavioral health resources as the limiting factor in providing MAT to residents of Page County and faculty identified the need for increased student training related to substance misuse,” Atwood said. 

Tim Schulte, professor emeritus of graduate psychology, said the residents’ unique contribution will be treating the more difficult and long-standing mental health conditions that can drive substance misuse. 

During the year-long planning process, the graduate psychology department will partner with Valley Health, the Winchester-based healthcare system that operates Page Memorial Hospital, and the Page Free Clinic to develop the program and to create professional development materials for both the students and practicing medical professionals. 

While the grant will fund the planning year and three additional years, Anderson said the program will continue beyond the grant-funded time and could include more than one student per year. 

“Our mission is a training mission in graduate psychology, not a service mission,” Anderson said. “But this is a perfect win-win because we’re able to expand training opportunities for our students while expanding service opportunities for the communities.” 

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