Montana Grant Targets Mental Health Needs of Children, Young People

Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman (left) is the principal investigator for a grant to fund a Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program. She is pictured with Kaya Juda-Nelson, a UM graduate student in social work who will receive training from the program.

MISSOULA – Collaborators at Montana’s two largest universities recently were awarded a four-year $1.9 million grant to create a program that will train students and support organizations to better serve children, adolescents and youth with mental and behavioral health needs.

Targeted at western Montana, the federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant will fund a new Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program. That program will be administered by both the University of Montana and Montana State University.

“This new program is significant because it benefits our youth,” said Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman, a UM social work associate professor and the principal investigator for the grant. “Although the state has many hard-working, effective mental health professionals working with our youth, there simply are not enough of them. This project funds the placement of graduate students in agencies and organizations that serve children, adolescents and transitional-age youth, expanding the capacity of organizations to meet immediate needs and help build the area’s workforce.”

The program will fund UM and MSU graduate students to deliver and integrate professional services into existing institutions, agencies and clinics. Most of the funds from the grant will go directly to student stipends.

Since students often practice where they are trained, Sontag Bowman said, placement in these agencies and organizations increases the likelihood of these future professionals staying in those communities.

“The grant will enhance the educational experiences of our university students,” Bowman said. “These stipends help us attract strong students to the program and offers support to reduce students’ financial burdens. This allows them to gain valuable experience with children, adolescents and transitional-age youth that might not have been possible if the placement was unfunded.”

She said the grant will allow a group of faculty and staff members from multiple disciplines at both UM and MSU to collaborate for the common good of all Montanans.

“Because of this grant, our team can do what the two universities already do well –  educate future professionals – in a targeted way that will support Montana's workforce and serve Montana families,” Sontag Bowman said.

Besides Sontag Bowman, other collaborators on the program will include co-principal investigators Jayna Mumbauer-Pisano (UM Department of Counselor Education), Greg Machek (UM School of Psychology Ph.D. program), Rebecca Pogoda (MSU Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nursing program) and Tracy Hellem (MSU Nursing Program).

Bryan Cochran (UM Clinical Psychology) and John Sommers-Flanagan (UM Department of Counselor Education) will serve as consultants. Former UM Director of Integrated Behavioral Health Holly Schleicher also will consult. Ilsa Seib (Western Montana Area Health Education Center) will serve as fiscal manager and Jean Carter (UM Pharmacy Practice) will be the project evaluator.

This new program is focused on western Montana, but it also will assist a second, four-year grant program awarded to the MSU College of Nursing to support psychiatry and mental health counseling students in eastern Montana. That program will help increase mental health care providers, particularly in rural and frontier areas.


Contact: Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman, associate professor, UM School of Social Work, 406-243-5666,