The University of New Mexico’s College of Education and Human Sciences’ (COEHS) Counselor Education Program is teaming up with other universities across the state to help increase the number of school based mental health (SBMH) providers in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) was awarded a federal grant to help meet this need – focusing specifically on rural communities in the state that have a high percentage of at-risk and vulnerable student populations. In response, they created the Expanding Opportunities Project (EOP), of which COEHS is a part. EOP will aim to recruit and retain students pursuing a master’s level or a doctoral in behavioral health programs including, counseling, psychology, and social work. As part of the program, students must complete an internship – to gain experience in the field – that would place them in different school districts around New Mexico.

“We are supporting our students to pursue their degree while at the same time giving us an opportunity to reach other students that we haven’t reached in the past,” said Kristopher M. Goodrich, COEHS associate dean and professor of Counselor Education. “If you look at the state of New Mexico, the majority of the state is defined as a rural community.”

EOP will also provide financial incentives (tuition reimbursement, participant stipends, and loan repayment) to eligible participants.

Students are accepted on a semesterly basis to participate in the EOP.

“The state is taking the mental health needs of our students incredibly serious,” Goodrich said. “As well as acknowledging the gaps that we have in terms of serving mental health needs in rural communities.”