New initiative aims to bring behavioral healthcare providers to SWLA

Published: Oct. 19, 2023 at 6:23 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - An effort is underway to have more students graduate from McNeese’s graduate counseling program. It’s all due to a major shortage of mental health professionals here in Southwest Louisiana.

“Every parish in the state of Louisiana is designated as in a mental professional shortage area, so we already know right now today that we don’t have enough mental health professionals, not just in Calcasieu parish, not just in Southwest Louisiana, but all throughout the state, “assistant department head for the Department of Psychology and Counseling Dr. Kevin Yaudes said.

To address that shortage, McNeese University Foundation and Imperial Calcasieu have partnered to launch Southwest Louisiana Behavioral Health Pipeline.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation awarded McNeese University Foundation and Imperial Calcasieu a $315,000 grant that would provide stipends to students who are completing their graduate counseling program at one of the partnered counseling agencies.

“So one of the main things that we saw when we were looking at the numbers regarding behavioral health professions is that a lot of students will complete an undergraduate program, but not move up to their graduate level program or they will go elsewhere for their graduate level programs, because McNeese didn’t have in our Southwest Louisiana community paid internship sites,” said Tanya McGee, executive director of Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority.

McGee said after the hurricanes, there was a significant increase in deaths by suicide and overdose. She said just her agency alone saw a 20% increase in patient visits last year.

“Where we would have 5 people standing outside our door waiting for people to come in for assessment, we have 20 waiting outside our door,” McGee said.

The funding from the grant will provide 30 students stipends during their internships, 10 students will be picked to receive the award each year for the next three years.