Amid pandemic, Boeing grant helps meet national need for mental health providers trained in top PTSD treatments

Katy Dondanville, Psy.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UT Health San Antonio and director of the STRONG STAR Training Initiative, presents a training workshop to community-based mental health providers on the use of Cognitive Processing Therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 29, 2020) — A grant from Boeing Co. to UT Health San Antonio will support expert training for mental health providers that continues to increase in importance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The $150,000 grant will go towards the previously established Boeing Scholar Program within UT Health’s STRONG STAR Training Initiative. There it will fund partial scholarships for 100 community mental health providers nationwide to receive low-cost training in the top treatments for military-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hundreds of thousands of military service members and veterans suffer from PTSD. However, many do not have local providers with training in the leading therapies or in how best to deliver them to combat veterans, both of which the STRONG STAR Training Initiative provides. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the critical need for community-based providers with this expertise, as many veterans with PTSD are reporting increased symptoms and difficulties. In addition, the pandemic has led to an increased need for both mental health services and training programs to be offered virtually.

In response to these needs, the Training Initiative will lead several virtual workshops and learning communities over the coming year that train providers in the top PTSD treatments and how to deliver them effectively online. The aim is to equip more mental health providers nationwide to provide evidence-based treatment for PTSD through telemedicine, and in turn to increase access to high-quality care.

“Now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is increased need for mental health support for veterans. Helping veterans with PTSD gain access to evidence-based treatment is critical to their recovery and re-engagement in meaningful life,” said Katy Dondanville, Psy.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UT Health San Antonio and director of the STRONG STAR Training Initiative. “We need trained and culturally competent mental health providers to meet the urgent mental health challenges made worse by COVID-19 among veterans. Boeing’s generous grant will help us in 2021 to continue to develop the mental health workforce across the country to meet that need.”

With the scholarship funding, community providers will enroll at a reduced rate in Training Initiative “virtual learning communities” that will offer training and consultation over the course of a year, beginning with workshops to be held in early 2021. Providers will be able to choose from learning communities that offer training and support in delivering either Prolonged Exposure or Cognitive Processing Therapy, the two leading evidence-based PTSD treatments.

“Our goal is to empower military veterans and their families to succeed in their next mission in life,” said Mike Lawson, senior manager, Boeing Global Engagement. “Partnering with STRONG STAR to expand access to both local and virtual PTSD treatment will ensure long-term recovery and sustainability of these programs, which are particularly vital in the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The STRONG STAR Training Initiative began in 2017. Through this initiative, UT Health San Antonio faculty share the unparalleled expertise they have gained delivering PTSD treatment to hundreds of military personnel and veterans through clinical trials affiliated with the STRONG STAR Consortium. Besides training in the top research-supported PTSD therapies, the program includes education on how to deliver those therapies in culturally appropriate ways that enhance their appeal to and effectiveness with military service members and veterans.

Providers who complete the virtual learning community requirements are eligible for continuing education credits.

For more information or to inquire about enrollment, please contact the STRONG STAR Training Initiative at training@strongstar.org or visit www.strongstartraining.org.

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