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Federal Grant to Boost Mental Health Care in Rural Northwest Connecticut

August 05, 2021

A $750,000 federal grant will help fund efforts by the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network to bring much-needed mental health care into the rural northwest area of the state.

The grant, from the Department of Health and Human Services, will boost efforts to increase BHN provider coverage at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital through the new Rural Psychiatric Residency Program expected to launch in July 2023 as a training program for recent medical school graduates.

“We are excited to earn the trust and support of the federal government as we move to eliminate barriers to healthcare, such as distance and access to quality care. That is especially critical for people needing mental health care,” said Dr. Andre Newfield, chair of psychiatry at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and medical director of the new four-year residency program. “This will allow us to better meet patients where they live.”

Rural residency programs are rare, especially in psychiatry, Dr. Newfield said. This will be one of just three in the state and will enroll four new providers a year for an eventual total of 16 residents.

“These are people committed to becoming psychiatrists and, hopefully, interested in some form of rural practice as well as an interested in practicing in Connecticut thereafter,” Dr. Newfield said.

CHH will be the primary training site for the program and where residents will work in an outpatient psychiatric setting in their third and fourth years of training. In the program’s first and second years, residents will receive training in inpatient, emergency and consultation psychiatry, as well as neurology, at St. Vincent’s.

“We have several providers at CHH, three of whom trained at the Institute of Living, who are enthusiastic about teaching and working with residents,” noted Dr. Lisa Diamond, medical director of the CHH Department of Psychiatry and part of the committee planning the residency program. “CHH has a high-volume, quality outpatient department that will provide an excellent opportunity for the residents during their third and fourth years.”

This will be the second psychiatry residency program at Hartford HealthCare, which offers one at the Institute of Living, part of the Behavioral Health Network.

“This is a major step. Residency training is the culmination of a department’s efforts to pass the field’s best knowledge and practices onto the next generation of psychiatrists,” Dr. Newfield said. “In this case, rather than originating with just one department, it is an effort by almost all components of the Behavioral Health Network.”

In addition to providing key training to new practitioners, participating in the residency program also helps the psychiatrists scrutinize their practice and raise it to a higher standard, he continued.

“This is training psychiatrists for the healthcare system of the future,” he said. “Nationwide and regional staffing concerns in the field of psychiatry will benefit from the contribution of additional psychiatrists trained to the field’s highest standards.”

A national search for a program director is underway. Dr. Newfield said they are looking for “a psychiatrist who is well seasoned clinically but who also has ample teaching and managerial postgraduate experience and will help create the program.” The residency program is sponsored academically by the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University and the selected program director will report to medical school officer as well as Dr. Newfield.

“Being able to create and maintain the Rural Psychiatry Residency Program at CHH will further demonstrate the strengths of this organization, both academically and clinically,” Dr. Newfield said.