Victoria Soltis-Jarrett, PhD, PMHNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, has been awarded a grant of $2.6 million by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This funding comes as her 8th HRSA Grant, further solidifying her commitment to increasing access to mental health care in North Carolina.
Additionally, she has received a no-cost extension of over $550,000 from her previous HRSA grant, the Carolina NP Residency Program 2023-2024, adding to this award and bringing her total HRSA funding for this project to $3.2 million. Over the last 18 years, Dr. Soltis-Jarrett has secured $17 million in funding from a variety of grants.
The newly awarded grant, entitled “Partners in practice, engagement, and education in rural NC: Preparing Nurse Practitioners for Behavioral Health Integration in Primary Care-Vulnerable Populations (PEER NC: NP-BHI/PC-VP),” aims to address North Carolina’s mental health crisis, which currently ranks 38th in the country for access to mental health services and 42nd for access to youth mental health services. Ninety-four counties in the state are designated as health provider shortage areas for mental health, highlighting the urgent need for improved mental health services.
The grant’s focus is on educating, training, and financially supporting nurse practitioner (NP) students, with a special emphasis on behavioral health integration in primary care for vulnerable individuals and families. With the pandemic intensifying the already alarming statistics, including a 40% increase in drug overdose deaths in 2021 and a doubling of the mortality rate among pregnant women from accidental drug overdoses over the past decade, the need for skilled NPs is greater than ever.
Dr. Soltis-Jarrett’s team is prepared to implement new objectives that will equip NP students to provide clinically competent and culturally sensitive whole health care to underserved regions in North Carolina. By strengthening linkages with clinical immersion sites that integrate behavioral health and substance use services in primary care, the project aims to expand NP recruitment and placement in critical need areas.
“This funding is critical to the state of North Carolina because it educates and trains nurse practitioner students to provide behavioral health and substance use treatment in primary care settings and work to the highest level of their scope of practice,” says Dr. Soltis-Jarrett.
“This grant will prepare NP students to care for some of the most vulnerable individuals and families that are suffering from complex, comorbid medical and psychiatric illnesses in rural NC. Both Primary Care NP students, along with their Psychiatric-Mental Health NP peers, are eligible for this unique traineeship and will be able to apply this added knowledge in our rural and underserved communities immediately after graduation. An extra benefit is that they also receive an amazing sum of money for their tuition, fees, and books, she explained.
The grant’s significance extends beyond the financial support it provides; it represents a beacon of hope for the vulnerable populations in rural North Carolina. Dr. Soltis-Jarrett’s dedication and vision, backed by her extensive experience, will undoubtedly lead to positive, life-changing outcomes for those grappling with mental health and substance use disorders.
As Dr. Soltis-Jarrett and her team embark on this vital project, their efforts will not only transform the lives of individuals and families but also strengthen the foundation of healthcare in underserved communities throughout North Carolina.