Gov. Nixon hopes to fix mental health professional shortage

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is proposing spending $20-million to train more people to pursue careers as mental health professionals.

In the year since the Connecticut school shootings, there has been a surge in demand for mental health professionals all across the nation.

The $20-million would be in the form of grants to Missouri universities to train 1,200 students for mental health careers. Under the plan, UMKC would receive nearly $4.2-million to train clinical psychologists, child psychiatrists and advanced nurse practitioners.

An investigation into the Sandy Hook school shootings determined that the shooter had significant mental health issues, which affected his ability to lead a normal life and interact with others.

As a result, a dozen states have passed or strengthened laws that may result in more people receiving court-ordered treatment for symptoms of mental illness.

The Affordable Care Act also may help millions of previously uninsured Americans get mental health services.

Gov. Nixon said he wants to make sure more Missourians are trained to take advantage of these mental health careers which pay well.

"These institutions have developed an overall strategic plan to invest these dollars in high impact programs that will increase the number of students entering these fields and boost the number of health care professionals working in our state," Nixon said.

The Affordable Care Act also guarantees that insurance plans provide equal coverage for mental and physical health care.

President Obama also has proposed spending $100-million to increase access and quality of mental health care.

Missouri is one of 36 states spending more money on its mental health system in the last year. Nixon said the shortage is so bad, 72 counties in Missouri don't even have a licensed psychiatrist. He hopes this effort will change that.

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