A new mental health and emotional wellness initiative at The University of Texas at El Paso will bring together experts in psychology, social work, educational psychology, counseling and rehabilitation counseling to improve behavioral health systems in El Paso, Juárez, and southern New Mexico.
The Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PDNHF) has granted UTEP $1.1 million over two years to create Empower Change: The Paso del Norte Center for Mental and Emotional Well-being. The center will be the backbone organization for the PDNHF’s Mental Health and Emotional Well-being priority area.
“The center will lead and support this interdisciplinary, cross-organizational effort to build the mental health infrastructure of the Paso del Norte region,” said UTEP Vice Provost John Wiebe, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator. “There’s a lot of great work happening in the community in mental health. We plan to leverage the resources of the area’s academic institutions and community partners to coordinate this work and develop a strategic plan for the future of mental health and emotional well-being in the region.”
The center will promote collaboration among expert faculty and mental health professionals at UTEP, New Mexico State University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, William Beaumont Army Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It also will provide professional development opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.
“The foundation’s ‘Backbone Organization’ grant to UTEP will leverage the team’s extensive technical expertise and professional networks to build upon existing community partnerships and support a collaborative approach to transforming behavioral health systems in the region,” said PDNHF CEO Tracy Yellen.
“With UTEP’s leadership and support, we will continue the collaborative work necessary to decrease the negative bias associated with mental illness; take advantage of new funding sources made possible by the Texas legislature this past session; and achieve the goals that local leaders have developed to improve access to and quality of mental and behavioral health services in El Paso, southern New Mexico and Ciudad Juárez.”
Among the center’s objectives, investigators plan to develop an expertise portal that can be used to search and identify mental health experts in the community. They also intend to create an interactive database of comprehensive mental health services, including substance abuse and community reintegration programs and affordable or free treatment services.
Other priorities include developing a comprehensive workforce development plan to increase the number of mental health professionals specializing in behavioral and mental health in the region; establishing leadership councils to provide up-to-date advanced best practices and research; identifying funding sources and grant development opportunities to promote interdisciplinary mental health research; designing legislative policy recommendations to advance mental health services; and developing a communications and public relations infrastructure to educate stakeholders about mental health and emotional well-being.
“We have set many goals to complete over the course of two years and will be actively creating multiple partnerships with important community stakeholders,” said Eden Hernandez Robles, Ph.D., the center’s director. “Everything we do will be in the spirit of excellent service to our community through the strategic use of our wealth of knowledge, expertise and resources for the good of our region.”