Doctoral Students Provide Mental Health Counseling to Brevard County’s Underserved

New Training Opportunity Offers Students Stipends that Bring Mental Health Expertise to Primary Care Clinics

A million dollar grant awarded to Florida Tech will eventually benefit poor and underserved populations of Brevard County by providing greater access to metal health services.

Florida Tech School of Psychology’s Integrated Healthcare Training will offer doctoral students a stipend to pursue the practicum portion of their training at Brevard Health Alliance clinics.

Kristi Van Sickle, associate professor of Psychology and the director of the program, says bringing more psychologists to an integrated health environment will provide patients with a one-stop shop for healing the whole body, which includes mental health. Issues such as depression, anxiety and drug dependence can all be addressed at the patient’s primary care center and covered by insurance.

The integrated model benefits a community’s underserved population in a number of ways, Van Sickle says. Putting a psychologist in a doctor’s office could take away some of the stigma often associated with mental illness because it would be addressed as a matter of routine during a regular physical evaluation. A doctor who suspects a patient could benefit from mental health counseling could bring that person a few steps down the hall to a trained psychologist on the same visit. For the poor and elderly, for whom transportation isn’t always available, there is a greater chance of addressing all health needs when mental and physical care is all in one place and available at the same time.

Under the more common mental health scenario, no more than 25 percent of patients ever follow up on a doctor’s recommendation to seek counseling.

With the new grant, more than 30 Florida Tech doctoral students will be paid to participate in the mental health care of the underserved and underinsured, making it a win-win for both the practitioner and the patient in Brevard County.

An article about the program was featured in Florida Today.

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