United Health Grant

From left: Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence CEO Ingrid Johnson, UnitedHealthcare Government Programs CEO Brian Thompson, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera pieced together a symbolic puzzle for a photo opportunity after the United Health Foundation announced a $1.5 million grant to recruit and support 39 rural Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Behavioral Health Fellows at an event on the University of Northern Colorado campus in Greeley, Colo. Monday. The Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence will partner with the United Health Foundation to increase access to behavioral health care services for residents of rural Colorado.

The United Health Foundation announced on Nov. 25 that it will give $1.5 million to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence to support the graduate education of 39 nurse fellows.

Once they earn a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certificate, they will serve in rural areas for two years. The grant will provide a financial stipend and support for the 600 required hours of behavioral health clinical practice.

“These types of partnerships between nonprofits like the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence and companies like UnitedHealth Group will be critical to expanding access to much needed behavioral health care services,” said Colorado Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, the former CEO of Susan G. Komen Colorado, in a statement.

The United Health Foundation pointed out that nine of the 10 Colorado counties with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths are rural. 

In 2018, the state’s Office of Rural Health counted three-quarters of a million Coloradans who live in rural areas, with a median age four years older than in urban counties. (Officially, a rural county has no city with over 50,000 residents.)

The office found that Las Animas County, which has approximately the same land area as Connecticut, has only one hospital. More critically, for mental health, 22 counties are without a licensed psychologist, with suicide rates on average 41% higher than the state as a whole.

“A ZIP code should never stand in the way of quality health care,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner about the grant, “and this collaboration will ensure expanded capacity to better serve the needs of Coloradans living in all four corners of our state.”

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