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Idaho State University launches new scholarship to boost mental health workers

Idaho State University

A new scholarship fund at Idaho State University could chip away at the state’s lack of mental health care workers.

A $1.5 million grant from the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health will cover scholarships for up to 50 ISU students.

The awards cover those studying counseling, psychology or even students who want to be health interpreters in Spanish and sign language.

Rex Force, VP for Health Sciences and Senior Vice Provost at ISU, said the hope is to train and keep desperately needed mental health workers in the state.

“Essentially, every square inch of Idaho is regarded as a federally designated health professional shortage area for mental health,” Force said.

Idaho ranks near the bottom among all states in both access to mental health care and a high prevalence of mental illness according to the nonprofit Mental Health America.

The grant will also offer housing stipends for students who do their clinical rotations in rural Idaho or on tribal reservations.

Covering living expenses, like rent, for these students, Force said, gives them an opportunity to experience rural parts of the state and potentially put down roots.

"Students that train in Idaho are more likely to stay in Idaho," he said.

Details are still being worked out, but Force said the scholarships could be up to $4,000 per year and would be renewable.

The first awards will be handed out next fall.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!