A training initiative is giving Husker psychology students a first-hand look at the fusion of primary care and mental health treatment, an increasingly popular model nationwide that increases access for underserved populations.  

The program, led by Husker psychologist Arthur “Trey” Andrews, positions Nebraska’s Clinical Psychology Training Program as one of only a few nationally that enable students to practice in an integrated primary care setting early in their training. In integrated care, mental health practitioners deliver services in community-based primary care settings, such as family doctor, pediatrician and OB-GYN offices. 

A three-year, nearly $700,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds the program. 

A primary goal is training students to think beyond one-on-one treatment and focus on the systems of mental health care delivery. This includes logistics: medical office location, transportation, time required for treatment, and cost and insurance issues. 

Trey Andrews

These barriers disproportionately affect immigrants and refugees, low-income individuals, those without insurance, and minorities. 

“These pieces are really critical to thinking about whether a person can even get in to see you, how feasible it is for them to continue seeing you and our ability to reach folks who don’t otherwise have access to care,” said Andrews, associate professor of psychology and ethnic studies and co-director of the university’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative.

Integrated care circumvents many roadblocks. Patients receive treatment in a familiar building, retain more privacy and have access to on-site specialists who provide expertise and services that busy physicians cannot.  

Four Husker trainees per year are working about 20 hours per week at two of Nebraska’s high-need federally qualified health centers. The trainees have so far served more than 700 people, easing Nebraska’s shortage of mental health care providers. 

Anneliis Sartin-Tarm, a member of the first cohort, said her experiences highlighted the dissonance between the classroom and on-the-ground reality.  

“Instead of wondering why people aren’t coming to see therapists or why people aren’t responding to our treatments, we as providers should ask, ‘What can we do to help meet our populations’ needs?’” she said. 

The faculty team includes Husker psychologists David Hansen, Anna Jaffe, Tierney Lorenz and Dennis McChargue. 

+ Additional content for Integrating mental health care

News release: Integrated care model focus of newly-funded psychology program