Western Oregon University awarded funds to expand behavioral health workforce

Written by Maureen Brakke

MONMOUTH, Ore.Western Oregon University was awarded funds by the Oregon State Legislature to enhance the state’s capacity to address behavioral and mental health workforce needs along with Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Portland State University, and Southern Oregon University.

With a rising number of individuals seeking support for various mental health concerns in the state, the existing healthcare infrastructure struggles to meet the growing demand. This shortage leaves many communities underserved and exacerbates the strain on existing resources, resulting in prolonged wait times for crucial mental health services. Addressing this crisis requires concerted efforts to attract, train, and retain mental health professionals while also expanding access to mental healthcare services in underserved areas. 

To address this growing issue, the regional institutions received a combined total of $4 million from the Oregon State Legislature during the most recent legislative session to build additional pathways for individuals to become mental and behavioral health professionals. Western Oregon University was awarded $666,000 of the $4 million to address Oregon’s behavioral and mental health workforce needs by:

  • Awarding stipends and/or fellowships to students seeking mental health degrees and working with community organizations.
  • Providing scholarships to reduce or eliminate debt for students pursuing mental health degrees.
  • Partnering with community organizations on pathways for behavioral and mental health student interns to work with rural, veteran, or houseless individuals, students, or persons from underserved communities. 
  • Developing and delivering micro-credentials, alcohol, and drug counseling certificates, and/or additional innovative academic pathways that materially increase the number of working professionals with mental health training.
  • Any other method determined by these institutions to be necessary to enhance the state’s capacity to educate behavioral and mental health practitioners in the manner described above. 

“Oregon is facing a behavioral health crisis that requires investment by the state to develop a robust workforce,” said Provost Jose Coll. “This initial funding initiative is a start to what we hope will be a commitment by Oregon to support those institutions that are training the counselors of the future. We look forward to the next steps which will increase enrollment and support students seeking a behavioral health degree.” 


About Western Oregon University

Western Oregon University, established in Monmouth in 1856, proudly stands as Oregon’s oldest public university. Hosting around 4,000 students, Western embodies a mid-sized, NCAA Division II institution, with approximately 80% of its students hailing from within the state. Notably, its diverse student body comprises individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, veterans, and non-traditional learners. Western stands as the preferred campus in Oregon for those pursuing an enriching education within a nurturing, student-focused environment, characterized by faculty-led instruction.  Together we succeed.

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