Federal grant awards UTRGV about $2 million for primary care training, enhancement program

The U.S. Department of Health and Health Services awarded about $2 million over the course of five years to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley for its primary care training and enhancement program.

Curtis Galke is the director of the family medicine residency program at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg.

Curtis Galke, director of the family medicine residency program at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, said the funds will go toward training behavioral health consultants through developing a curriculum and effective training measures. Behavioral health deals with depression, anxiety and stress management and is a term that is broader than mental health, he said. The grant’s criteria required a “commitment to integrative behavioral health,” he said.

The university will receive about $400,000 per year over the next five years.

“The real priority of the university and the department of family medicine is to integrate behavioral health care into the primary care setting,” Galke said.

The training is mostly going to be online and digital to provide this type of health care, he said.

About 80% of behavioral or mental health concerns are seen in a primary care setting, by everyday doctors and not psychiatrists, he said. This statistic shows the need for an integrative approach, Galke said and that not every situation requires psychiatric care, he added.

“All Central and South Texans deserve access to affordable, quality health care,” U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said in a news release. “These funds will allow UTRGV to continue educating and training the next generation of medical professionals that will provide top notch, comprehensive care in our region.”

The training will include a varied audience of learners, from social work to psychology students in addition to medical students on “how to be point of care behavioral health consultants,” Galke said.

“This funding will allow us to fulfill our promise to train health care providers who will serve the Rio Grande Valley and increase access to health care for residents of this region,” School of Medicine Dean John Krouse said in news release.

Many patients do not have access to mental health care in Hidalgo County, which makes this approach more significant, Galke said. With the grant awarded recently in June, it is still in its early stages.

The congressman said he also supports other grants.

“I am proud to help support any individual, group, non-profit, city or entity that is seeking federal grant money and provide resources on how to best apply for grant opportunities,” Gonzalez added in another statement.