MOULTRIE, Ga. — Colquitt Regional Medical Center recently announced it has been awarded a major grant to help address the shortage of mental health providers in the region.
The hospital has been selected for a $750,000 grant, awarded over a three-year period, from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish a psychiatry residency program in Southwest Georgia. Colquitt Regional will work with Turning Point Hospital, a behavioral health hospital facility in the UHS health system, to support resident education and training.
“The health challenges in rural America are clear – rural communities face a greater risk of poor health outcomes than their urban counterparts,” said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. “Programs like the Rural Residency Planning and Development grants take aim at one of the most persistent disparities: access to high quality health care providers. HRSA is committed to increasing the number of providers serving rural communities and improving health in rural America.”
This grant is part of a larger $20 million multi-year initiative by HRSA to expand the physician workforce in rural areas by developing new, sustainable residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine and psychiatry. Award recipients include rural hospitals, community health centers, health centers operated by the Indian Health Service, Indian tribes or tribal organizations and schools of medicine.
The goal of Colquitt Regional’s project is to develop a sustainable, accredited rural training track in psychiatry.
“When we started the family medicine residency, we hoped we would be able to build a primary care physician workforce,” said Colquitt Regional President and CEO Jim Matney. “We succeeded and now have a remarkable chance to also bring psychiatrists here. More than that though, having primary care and psychiatric residents train together means addressing the connections between mental health and chronic disease, with a goal of improving health indicators and outcomes for our region. This opportunity will move the needle in taking care of our citizens, providing comprehensive care and improving access.”
With the majority of physicians graduating from residency programs and entering medical practice within 100 miles of their training program, this new residency hopes to also address the challenge of recruiting psychiatrists to practice in rural Georgia.
“The long-standing partnership between Colquitt Regional and Turning Point has always been about providing better access to mental health services,” said Judy Payne, CEO of Turning Point Hospital. “This grant gives us the opportunity to create more access in a way that will positively impact the mental health outcomes of the region.”
The long-term benefits of creating additional access to psychiatric services includes: reduced hospitalization for patients with mental illness, lower rates of homelessness and unemployment, improved outcomes for mental health patients with chronic health issues, and decreased drug abuse and overdose in the community.
“We have demonstrated we can succeed in developing graduate medical education, as evidenced by the Georgia South Family Medicine Residency Program. At the same time, this community has recognized that mental health is a top priority,” said Maureen A. Yearta, Ed.D., Colquitt Regional Hospital Authority chairman. “This grant allows us to tackle another barrier toward providing healthcare that encompasses the full spectrum of wellness.”
Colquitt Regional was the only institution in Georgia to receive the award. The new rural residency track will begin interviewing candidates in the fall of 2020.
Jessica Rivenbark, executive director for the South Georgia Medical Education and Research Consortium, will be actively engaged in the development of the program. The consortium is comprised of Colquitt Regional Medical Center, Archbold Medical Center, Phoebe Putney Health System, Tift Regional Health System, and South Georgia Medical Center. Founded in 2011, the consortium has been focused on regional capacity for medical education and physician workforce development.
Colquitt Regional is a 99-bed teaching hospital located in Moultrie. It recently received its tenth “A” Hospital Safety Score designation from The Leapfrog Group, naming them as one of the safest hospitals in the nation.