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Nursing Receives $3.7M to Provide Mental Health Care Services to Underrepresented Populations

The University of Tennessee, College of Nursing has been awarded a $3.7M grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide quality mental health care services to rural communities with underrepresented and minority residents, seeing both insured and uninsured patients, through nurse practitioner-led mobile health units and telehealth equipment.

The project titled Mobile Health Training: Underrepresented Providers & Underrepresented Populations (UP & UP) will help to educate underrepresented and minority students in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) BSN to DNP and certificate programs by offering a full scholarship to 18 students.

The selected students and their PMHNP preceptor provide telehealth services to Hamblen, McMinn, Morgan, Monroe, Sevier counties through mobile health care clinics one day a week.

“This project will help to strengthen diversity within the nursing field,” said Mary Johnson, project director, PMHNP concentration coordinator and clinical assistant professor. “It not only provides funding to increase the number of diverse and underrepresented students in the PMHNP program, but it will also help address the mental health needs of rural communities of Tennessee.”

Another component of the project is to integrate social determinants of health, health equity and access to care, health literacy, culturally sensitive care, leadership, and communication concepts into the current PMHNP educational curriculum to improve patient health outcomes.

HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically, or medically vulnerable.

“The prevalence of mental health disorders is highest among those living in Appalachian regions of Tennessee,” said Allyson Neal, assistant dean of graduate programs. “This fact coupled with limited services for rural residents creates health disparities. This grant will impact the lives of rural Tennessee residents by bringing them care and by training PMHNP’s to overcome the challenges unique to this population.”

The project began on July 1 and will run over the course of four years.

CONTACT: Kara Clark Cardwell (, 865-974-9498)