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New Online Program in Springfield Designed to Meet the Growing Need for Mental Health Services


Cox College will offer a new nurse practitioner program focused on psychiatric and mental health needs starting this fall.

Elicia Sutton, chair of Cox College’s Master of Science in Nursing program, said the college decided to offer the new program because of the growing need for mental health providers across the country.

"And we have recognized that mental illness has become a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in America with few individuals unaffected by the disease," said Sutton, " so we felt a need to help meet the needs of our local community as well as the nation."

Sutton hopes the program will have a big impact on the need for mental health services locally and nationwide.  She said, per the State Board of Nursing, there are only 133 licensed psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners in the state.  

According to Sutton, statistics show that there are 18 million patients in the U.S. with depression, or one in 10 patients, and there are limited specialists available to care for those patients.

"So, by us, Cox College, developing this program, we will be able to allow nurses to become specialized to care for that population," said Sutton.

She said it will be the first psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program in the community.  The college is also offering a 21-credit certification program or health care professionals who already have master’s degrees in nursing.

The online program has no admission limits, and Sutton said they’re seeing an overwhelming response from providers locally and across the country. 

Those eligible for the nurse practitioner program are practicing registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.