Since January 2019, Churchill County officials and University students, closely supervised by Dr. Kenneth Coll, Professor of Counselor Education in the College of Education and Human Development, have collaborated to provide marriage and family therapy and clinical professional mental health counseling services to the students of Churchill County. University students have now conducted hundreds of clinical counseling sessions across many different grade levels in the county. The mutually beneficial arrangement allows the master’s level University interns to gain real-world experience in a supervised setting and simultaneously increase access to mental health services for the students of Churchill County.
“Every year since 2019, even throughout the pandemic, we’ve had our counseling interns delivering much needed mental health counseling services in Fallon,” Coll said. “The school district staff are very supportive and appreciative. The K-12 students are especially enthusiastic about working with a mental health counselor to explore solution to challenges, and the university interns find that they’re able to grow their skills and knowledge from that experience.”
Inspiration came when local officials sought a solution for long wait lists as local teachers, school counselors, and K-12 students expressed a high need for mental health services for their students. Coll said that in discussions with Churchill County School District Superintendent Dr. Summer Stephens a partnership was created where everyone wins.
“This program, at least in part, addresses the tremendous challenge of availability and accessibility to mental health services in Nevada and especially in rural areas,” Coll said. “For example, a typical wait list for mental health services is about three months. Especially for a young person, that can feel like three years.”
Beginning January 2020 and with the help of the Redfield Foundation, Coll has taken this model and applied it to the Eddy House, a professional skill development center and shelter for at-risk and homeless youth. This assistance offers similar benefits to the Churchill County initiative, providing mental health services to youth in yet another environment where accessibility and availability are low.
“Building on these two successful programs, the Provost convened what we’re calling the University of Nevada, Reno - Community Behavioral Health Collaborative in May of 2021” Coll said. “We’re working to bring other campus mental health services training programs together [such as addictions counseling, nurse practioner- psychiatric], and intentionally deploying their interns into agencies where such services are desperately needed. As you can imagine, that is taking some careful planning.”