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SOU among universities splitting $4 million for behavioral health programs

 Southern Oregon University in Ashland is facing a $5 million budget shortfall.
Al Case
Southern Oregon University in Ashland is facing a $5 million budget shortfall.

The Oregon legislature recently allocated $4 million to try to address a statewide shortage of behavioral health providers. Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey said the $666,667 investment in SOU will help meet that demand.

"It's kind of happening across the board and affecting everyone. So this is a recognition, I think, by the state—and we're very grateful for it—that they understand that our universities are very interested in helping to be part of the solution," he said.

SOU will use the money to create a Master’s in Social Work program, in collaboration with Portland State University. Bailey said the specific details still need to be worked out. SOU will also expand its existing counseling programs.

Lawmakers also allocated the same amount of money to Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology and Western Oregon University for behavioral health programs. Portland State received more than $1.3 million. Bailey said these five schools will work together to address the crisis in their regions.

"The challenge is not localized to one part of our state. But we also acknowledge that what might work best in Monmouth and in Western Oregon may be slightly different than what works best in Southern Oregon. So it's not a carbon copy," he said.

SOU currently offers a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, as well as a micro-credential in the education department that focuses on behavioral and mental health.

The university also received a separate, $1.8 million grant from the Oregon Health Authority in February to expand the capacity of the clinical mental health counseling program to 60 students, up from the current maximum of 48.

The original bill was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) and included $6 million in funding; it was eventually reduced and wrapped up in a broader spending bill.
Copyright 2024 Jefferson Public Radio.

Jane Vaughan