UofL Trager Institute and Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic
The Trager Institute and its affiliated Republic Bank Foundation Optimal Aging Clinic are located at 204 E. Market St.

The Trager Institute at the University of Louisville today announced three grants totaling $4.51 million to grow the workforce of behavioral health professionals and expand services in nursing homes in Kentucky and North Carolina.

Two of the grants focus on behavioral health in rural settings while the third addresses COVID-19 in nursing homes.

“At the University of Louisville, we excel at addressing the needs of our ever-growing aging population,” said Interim President Lori Gonzalez. “People are living longer, and virtually every country in the world is seeing increases in both the number and percentage of citizens over age 60.

“The Trager Institute is perfectly positioned to address these challenges and develop programs that work here in Kentucky and beyond. These three grants will greatly expand the institute’s work in creating and applying knowledge that will improve lives.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer cited the contribution the grants represent to a key component his administration has championed.

“From the beginning of my administration, health and aging innovation has been one of five key economic sectors we identified as a strength and targeted for economic development efforts,” Fischer said. “When people talk or write about Louisville’s ecosystem that supports this innovation and industry hub, that ecosystem didn’t just happen, and it takes indispensable community partners to keep it going.

“I want to thank the University of Louisville for being a crucial component in making the life of Louisville better, and also saving so many lives, too.”

The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) grant provides $2.21 million to expand the behavioral health workforce through an apprenticeship career pathway for high school graduates and older adults. A second BHWET grant of $1.92 million was awarded to fund placing to more than 80 social work, nursing and counseling psychology student interns in integrated primary care/behavioral health training sites.

The BHWET project will reach individuals who have experienced trauma and other behavioral health challenges across their lifespans in three high-need regions encompassing 14 rural Kentucky counties: Trimble, Henry, Shelby and Spencer counties near Louisville; Hart, Metcalfe and Barren counties in south central Kentucky; and Owsley, Perry, Letcher, Harlan, Bell, Knox and Whitley counties in eastern Kentucky.

The third grant of $375,000 will enable the Trager Institute and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Center on Aging and Health to create and deliver COVID-19-specific education and training to the nursing home workforce, residents, their families and caregivers. Dubbed “FlourishConnect” from the trademarked FlourishCare model developed at the Trager Institute, the project will build on lessons learned from the National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network. Using their combined expertise with their respective Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Programs, UofL and UNC will expand service to an additional 100 nursing homes in North Carolina and Kentucky with the goal of transforming them into age-friendly health systems. UofL was one of 11 recipients of the COVID-19 education and training grant.

“These projects address acute needs,” said Trager Institute Director Anna Faul. “The data show that people living in rural areas are significantly more likely than those in urban areas to experience at least one adverse childhood experience that can create trauma for a lifetime. The BHWET grants will enable us to grow the behavioral health workforce in these areas and provide behavioral health care across the spectrum of the lifespans of the residents there.

Faul adds the FlourishConnect project will focus on best practices for managing and treating nursing home residents who either are at risk of contracting or are currently ill with COVID‐19. In addition to nursing home workforce training, FlourishConnect will provide training for nursing home residents along with their families and caregivers.

The three grants were awarded by the Health Resources Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.