OUR VIEW: More great news for mental health needs in Basin

THE POINT: Once again the Permian Strategic Partnership and Scharbauer Foundation step up to meet educational needs in the Permian Basin.

Great news for all of us was announced this week by the University of Texas Permian Basin. A $10 million donation from Permian Strategic Partnership and the Scharbauer Foundation will be used for behavioral health master’s degree scholarships.

What is so fantastic about all of this is that the coming behavioral health center, which will be located between Odessa and Midland on 1788, will benefit greatly from these soon-to-be grads.

The program will also beef up the “grow your own” idea for desperately needed health care workers.

The grant included $5 million each from PSP and the Scharbauer Foundation.

UTPB President Sandra Woodley said the partnership between the university, PSP and Scharbauer Foundation would significantly impact families in the Basin.

“Starting this fall, you will be able to earn your master’s degree in clinical psychology, social work or counseling for free thanks to a $10 million grant from PSP and the Scharbauer Foundation,” Woodley said.

The grant is available to anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any field.

“We are so humbled by this investment and we know that it’s a deep responsibility of this university to step up and make sure that we provide the workforce that’s needed here in the Permian Basin. We know first hand at the university how important mental health is and all the behavioral health needs of our community. We, like many of you out there, struggle with getting the services that we need just to keep up with the basic demand,” Woodley said.

We can’t say thank you enough to both PSP and Scharbauer. Both have consistently stepped up to fund a number of educational endeavors in the area.

Woodley, during a news conference, pointed out that UTPB wants to be cutting edge, not just keep up.

“Scholarships like these for graduate students are truly very rare,” Woodley said.

There are scholarships for undergraduate work, but it’s an important time to have this available.

The competitive grant will cover the tuition and mandatory fees for up to three years and is available to anyone in the 22-county area that makes up the Permian Basin in West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico.

The first cohort of an estimated 95 students will start in just a few weeks.

Officials said a job will be waiting for graduates when they complete their degree because the need is so great.

Deadline to apply is Aug. 1 and Woodley said information is available on the UTPB website.

Tracee Bentley, president and CEO of PSP, said behavioral health is one of the top needs that the organization identified as far as healthcare four or five years ago.

One of the exciting parts to Bentley is that the funds will go toward students who live in the Permian Basin who are already invested in making this community the “wonderful place that it is.”

“And now we’re able to offer scholarships so they can reinvest … again in our community and provide a critical, critical need that currently we don’t have. Knowing that this money is going to serve students right here means an awful lot,” Bentley said.

Bentley is forward-thinking and is able to put people and funding together as needed across the region. The PSP is lucky to have her and so is the Permian Basin.

These forward-thinkers like Bentley and Woodley and Grant Billingsley, president and CEO of the Scharbauer Foundation, are making the area a better place to live and work. This new grant will mean the world to those suffering with behavioral health needs.

Billingsley said West Texas can’t wait for someone to step in and help. People here have to take care of things themselves.

Billingsley said he anticipates working with UTPB on more partnerships.

He said he wants people to know that they’re going to be working on how to get them to the next level to a counseling position with one of the hospitals, the behavioral health hospital that’s going to be built, or one of the counseling agencies in the area.

“They all have people crying for help and we’ve got to get them help. So I think we’re starting today,” Billingsley said Wednesday.

We wholeheartedly agree. How lucky we are to have so many folks who are willing to work together to bring quality care to this area and to also make that care available by training local students to do it.