NEW YORK, March 5, 2013 - Zeroing in on a pressing need in health care - nurses with specialized training in mental health issues, particularly focused on veterans - The Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence today announced what is believed to be the single largest philanthropic commitment, nearly $25 million, specifically for nursing faculty and clinical leader training.
The Jonas Center is directing close to $14 million and has secured pledges of another $10.5 million in leveraged funds to prepare 1,000 nurse faculty and clinical leaders nationwide by 2018. The grants will expand the collaborative work already underway between the Jonas Center and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to increase the number of nurses pursuing PhDs and DNPs, the terminal degrees in the field.
The estimated ROI for increasing nurse faculty training could enhance the treatment of millions of patients, based on a 2010 impact assessment by the Jonas Center and New York University College of Nursing. In the course of a 30-year career, one nurse faculty member could train approximately 7,500 nurses who, in turn, would touch the lives of a potential 3.6 million patients in their care, according to the assessment. In addition to patient care, the nursing scholars will pursue research and inform policy, all while training future generations of nurses.
"The ripple effect of this program is profound. It's staggering to consider the potential impact for positive intervention on individuals' mental health and society at large," said Donald Jonas, co-founder of the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence and a former retail entrepreneur. "This is a case where a calculated business investment in healthcare - and humanity - will pay dividends for generations."
Mental health issues have catapulted to the national stage, as returning veterans cope with the effects of war and the nation careens from continued acts of violence - often committed by individuals with mental illness. Just 5.6% of national health care spending goes toward mental health treatment and states cut $1.8 billion from mental health budgets during the recession. Inadequate insurance coverage and stigma are also barriers to adequate care.
"Alarming trends in our mental health care system, especially as they relate to veterans, are projected to continue and even worsen. Society needs to prepare for the long-term fallout, the magnitude of which cannot be fully projected at this time," said Darlene Curley, executive director. "Nurses are the first line of defense and an indispensable, underutilized resource for reversing woeful inadequacies in our strained health care system."
Jonas called the commitment to train 1,000 nurse faculty in line with President Obama's executive order to improve mental health services for veterans, service members and military families.
"With a single-minded determination, Donald and Barbara Jonas have become champions of nursing, spurring a level of private philanthropy not seen before in this field," said Naomi B. Levine, JD, advisor and board member of the Jonas Center and chair & executive director of the George H. Heyman, Jr. Center for Philanthropy & Fundraising at New York University. "This commitment cements their lasting impact on one of our most needed but under-funded professions."
Taking Up an Urgent Cause
An estimated 20 to 25% of service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer some sort of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or combination of both. On average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day, hitting a record high in 2012, when more active-duty soldiers died from suicide than combat.
Compounding the problem, a Veterans Administration report found that tens of thousands of veterans seeking mental health care waited approximately 50 days before receiving a full evaluation. Further, nearly 90 million Americans live in federally designated Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas.
According to Curley, the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholars Program is differentiated by its specific focus on increasing the number of nurses trained in highly specialized fields. "This is a new model of care, with transformative change of a broken system being led by nurses."
The Progression of a Proven Model
The expansion of the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Program, a national initiative launched in 2008 to stem the shortage of nursing faculty, also complements the Center's Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program (JVHP), launched in 2012. That program addresses veterans' life-altering health issues by expanding the field of qualified caregivers through scholarships to doctoral-level nursing candidates, many of whom are active duty reservists or veterans themselves. These scholars focus on veterans' needs identified by the White House and the VA, including mental health, traumatic brain injury, multiple trauma, aging and women's health.
"What began as a simple idea with great potential has proved to be a potent solution to the deficits and complex issues inherent in our health care system, and we believe the commitment to support 1,000 scholars is a momentous event," said Jonas. "We're excited to make this pledge but know that much more is needed and look forward to partnering with others who share our vision."
About the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence
Founded in 2006, the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence is dedicated to improving healthcare by advancing nursing scholarship, leadership and innovation. Its two main programs are the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Program, which aims to address the dire shortage of nursing faculty by preparing nurses with doctoral degrees to step into this critical role, and the Jonas Veterans Healthcare Program, which seeks to improve the health of veterans by supporting doctoral-level nursing candidates committed to advancing veterans' healthcare. These programs currently support more than 250 doctoral scholars nationwide.