Comprehensive Healthcare, CWU to revitalize mental health counseling graduate program

  • May 27, 2024
  • Firmani + Associates

Comprehensive Healthcare and Central Washington University have announced a significant initiative to help fill the gap of behavioral health specialists in the region.

Comprehensive Healthcare will gift nearly $770,000 to the CWU Foundation to reestablish the CWU Mental Health Counselling (MHC) graduate program, enabling the university to prepare master’s-level candidates for graduation — and for work in the community — as early as 2026.

The gift, established as the Comprehensive Healthcare Fund, will provide a two-year launch of programmatic staff who will design and implement curriculum, aiming to start classes in January 2025. The funds will be used to hire a team, including two faculty members, one of whom will be the program coordinator, a clinic manager, interim program coordinator, and graduate assistants as well as to cover some additional operational costs.

In recent years, community behavioral health organizations have experienced a significant workforce shortage and have been challenged to meet the increasing demand for mental health services in local communities. By establishing the MHC graduate program, the two organizations will work closely to serve both of their missions — creating pathways that expand access and success to all students and providing innovative, integrated healthcare, community education, and services to individuals, families, and organizations.

CWU President Jim Wohlpart and Comprehensive CEO Jodi Daly walk on campus.

“We’re confident in this partnership that develops a pipeline to significantly impact the workforce shortage we’ve seen over the years in community behavioral healthcare,” said Jodi Daly, PhD, Comprehensive Healthcare Chief Executive Officer, and a member of the CWU Foundation Board. “We’re proud to be able to offer this gift to reestablish the CWU MHC graduate program which will make a significant impact on the lives of local residents by preparing more counselors to deliver high-quality mental health care in the community within a couple of years.”

The MHC program is a graduate preparation program in CWU’s Department of Psychology that aims to provide clinical training to graduate students, so they are later eligible to seek state licensure as Mental Health Counselors (LMHC). The program was established in the 1970s but went on hiatus in 2023 due to lack of program faculty.

The program’s in-depth training will prepare CWU’s graduate MHC students to provide a broad range of comprehensive, ethical, and culturally relevant behavioral health services within their communities. Students will complete practicums and internships within CWU’s clinic and/or via community placement — such as at Comprehensive Healthcare — under the supervision of department faculty and field supervisors. These rich clinical experiences increase students’ clinical abilities, expose them to diverse populations, and facilitate the development of their professional identities.

“The demand for the MHC program among potential students has been so strong and the need for mental health support in the community far outstrips the current resources,” CWU Psychology Department Chair Heidi Perez said. “We are excited to partner with Comprehensive Healthcare to begin the reestablishment of the program so that everyone can benefit.”

Through the support of the Comprehensive Healthcare Fund, leaders anticipate the program will serve as many as 12 students annually. By re-opening to graduate students as early as winter quarter of 2025, the first cohort group would be on track to earn their diplomas in the summer of 2026. This accelerates their graduate program while the university works through the legislative session for capital and operational funding for a new department of psychology initiative.

Portrait of CWU President Jim Wohlpart and Comprehensive CEO Jodi Daly.

The new graduate program will be temporarily housed in an existing facility on the CWU campus in Ellensburg. Comprehensive Healthcare will be recognized in the facility for their support of the program. In addition, the professor and program coordinator, practicum and internship coordinator, and some graduate student fellows will be named for Comprehensive Healthcare on a fixed term basis.

“Central Washington University would like to express our sincere gratitude to Comprehensive Healthcare for this generous, and much-needed, donation,” CWU President Jim Wohlpart said. “With the demand for mental health professionals growing every year, these funds will help our psychology department respond to an increasing need for service providers across the Northwest. We believe this partnership represents a significant step in our ongoing effort to train more qualified mental health counselors.”

This is the beginning of a partnership between Comprehensive Healthcare and CWU with opportunities in the future to further strengthen clinical opportunities for students while serving a community need.

“On behalf of the CWU Foundation, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to Comprehensive Healthcare for their generous donation and partnership,” Chair of the CWU Foundation Board Wendy Iwaszuk said. “This support is invaluable not only to the students in this program but also to the broader community we serve and partnerships we are working to build.”

“The Comprehensive Healthcare board of directors and I believe that when we develop partnerships that can bring resources to communities, students, and those we serve, we’re making a significant impact,” Daly said. “All of this aligns with Comprehensive Healthcare’s strategic pillars that prioritize clients and community relationships, build infrastructure, stabilize financial resources and increase the workforce.

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