Premera Blue Cross Invests in University of Washington’s Psychiatry Fellowship for Advanced Nurse Practitioners

New program will help address the growing mental health workforce crisis

Mountlake Terrace, Wash., Dec. 08, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Premera Blue Cross today announced a $6.6 million grant to the University of Washington (UW) for the UW Psychiatry Fellowship for Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs). An innovative program in the region, the fellowship will accept up to four Psychiatric ARNP fellows each year starting in 2023. Training, to include rotations at primary care clinics and a new Behavioral Health Teaching Facility at UW Medical Center – Northwest, will focus on inpatient, outpatient, telehealth consultation and integrated psychiatric care for mental health conditions.


This investment continues Premera’s focus on addressing the growing mental health crisis. In Washington, one in five adults and one in six youth ages 6–17 experience a mental health disorder each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. However, more than half of people – both adults and adolescents – with a mental health condition did not receive any treatment in the last year.


While stigma continues to be a barrier to seeking care, provider shortages present an additional challenge. In Washington, 35 of 39 counties are federally designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas with limited access to providers such as clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists, and marriage and family therapists. Furthermore, nearly half the state’s counties – entirely in rural areas – do not have a single psychiatrist offering direct patient care.


“If we want to see improvements to healthcare in the future, we need to invest in sustainable solutions now,” said Jeffrey Roe, President and CEO of Premera Blue Cross. “The University of Washington continues to find innovative ways to provide better access to mental healthcare. Developing a strong workforce means communities will benefit for years to come.”

The training provided by this fellowship will allow psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to further develop their expertise and serve in a variety of roles in Washington. This includes serving as a psychiatric consult through the Collaborative Care Model, leveraging their expertise in partnership with primary care teams for patients in both urban and rural settings. Developed at UW Medicine to treat common and persistent mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, the Collaborative Care Model integrates mental health services into primary care clinics with regular psychiatric case consultation for patients who are not improving as expected.  


“Our future fellows will transform the access to effective mental health care across Washington state through collaboration, community support, and sustainable access to evidence-based care for patient and families,” said Dr. Anna Ratzliff, professor, Psychiatry, University of Washington School of Medicine.


“This fellowship will prepare a new pipeline of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners for leadership roles in complex clinical care environments, mentoring other nurses and interprofessional mental health providers, and improving equitable access to mental health care, said Azita Emami, Executive Dean of the UW School of Nursing. “This program, developed in collaboration between the University of Washington Schools of Nursing and Medicine and the UW Medical Center, will serve as a precedent for expanding collaborative education and training efforts to other specialty areas,” said Tatiana Sadak, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UW School of Nursing.  


This investment builds on Premera and the UW’s goal to improve health outcomes across Washington, including:

  • Premera’s $10 million investment in 2019 in the UW School of Medicine to support the integration of the Collaborative Care model into primary care clinics across rural areas. To date, 23 clinics have implemented the Collaborative Care model through this grant.
  • A $4.7 million grant from Premera in 2020 to the UW School of Nursing, which established the Rural Nursing Health Initiative. This program has placed nearly 40 ARNP students in rural practices in Washington.


This joint advanced clinical training program also represents a first-of-its-kind partnership between the UW School of Medicine and the UW School of Nursing — two top tier schools at the University of Washington. The UW School of Nursing is the nation’s No. 1 public nursing school with a Doctor of Nursing Practice program, while the UW School of Medicine has the nation’s No. 1 primary care education and training program, according to U.S. News and World Report. The UW School of Medicine also has the largest psychiatry residency program in the country with more than 90 residents being trained at any given time. Serving as the training ground for the ARNP fellows, it is the only academic psychiatry department serving the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho region.


These investments are part of Premera’s larger strategy to improve access to care in rural areas, specifically focused on physician, nurse and health aide recruitment and training; clinical integration of behavioral health; programs to increase the capacity of mental health crisis centers in rural areas; and small equipment grants to rural providers.

About Premera Blue Cross

Premera Blue Cross, a not-for-profit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association based in Mountlake Terrace, Wash., is a leading health plan in the Pacific Northwest, providing comprehensive health benefits and tailored services to more than 2.75 million people, from individuals to Fortune 100 companies.


About the UW School of Nursing

The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently a top-ranked nursing school, with the #1 ranking among public schools of nursing with a DNP program, according to U.S. News & World Report. The UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service. For more information, visit

About the UW School of Medicine

The UW School of Medicine serves a five-state region: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI). U.S. News & World Report currently ranks the UW School of Medicine as best in the nation for primary care education and training and second in the nation for NIH research grants with $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2020. There are approximately 4,800 students and trainees in the School of Medicine.


The new Behavioral Health Teaching Facility at UW Medical Center – Northwest

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