LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Concerns over mental health have been on the rise, especially since the pandemic. And now, officials are looking for ways to provide valuable resources to people in under-served areas.

The initiative comprises two separate grants, both aimed at what the pandemic highlighted in terms of mental health and the extra need for assistance.

Interim Dean at Michigan State University’s College of Nursing Leigh Small said the mental health challenges many are facing now have been around for years. But the pandemic really highlighted them.

“Particularly for underrepresented individuals, it, even more, underscored their challenged that they have,” Small said. “We’re working hard to, to not only to highlight the need but try to find ways to address the need by increasing access to care.”

A $1.6 million grant was awarded to MSU by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The school plans to use it to help students in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program.

Dr. Dawn Goldstein is the Program Director for the MSU College of Nursing’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program and said the goal is to help recruit and retain more nurses to help service more communities.

“So, I would really like to see how we can have students getting clinical experience, and then possibly, you know, working in locations that are just a desert, as it relates to mental health care professionals,” she said.

An additional grant totaling $1.3 million from the National Institutes of Health will also be used to help those underserved communities, by training more nurses to treat substance disorders.

“So, we’re looking at having the students who are part of this collaborative learning apply to work with research mentors already in the field,” the program director said.

Goldstein said she hopes to serve each community’s specific needs.

“What the needs might be in, say, Owosso, may be very different than what’s needed in Ionia,” she said.