U of O launches new children’s behavioral health institute

U of O launches new children's behavioral health institute
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The institute, which will be based in Portland at the former Concordia University campus, was made possible by a $425M gift from Connie and Steve Ballmer.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The University of Oregon announced Tuesday morning the official launch of the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Healthwhich will focus on creating intervention and treatment programs for K-12 students to address children’s behavioral and mental health care needs.

The institute will partner with K-12 schools across the state, starting with Portland Public Schools (PPS).

“The global pandemic has only amplified the mental and behavioral health needs of students here in Portland and across the country,” said PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. “School districts are often ill-equipped to adequately address these barriers to learning. … The institute is a new model of prevention and care, one that empowers more people who are passionate about supporting our children in new ways.”

The institute will be based in Northeast Portland at the former Concordia University campus. The university’s board of trustees is expected to review a purchase agreement for the northeast Portland campus in the coming days, according to a news release.

The university said the institute was made possible by a gift of more than $425 million from Connie and Steve Ballmer, co-founders of Ballmer Group Philanthropy. Connie Ballmer earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and served on its board of trustees from 2014 to 2021.

“Right now, the need for behavioral health services across our country is at critical levels, and there is an opportunity to strengthen and enhance the behavioral health system so that it is set up to address every child’s needs — now and in the future,” said Connie Ballmer.

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According to a news release, the institute will be “the first of its kind and the most comprehensive effort undertaken by a US university and its partners.” Through the institute, the University of Oregon aims to unite the university’s research programs, the state’s public schools and families and community support groups, to accomplish the following:

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  • Develop a new level of behavioral health practitioners through new undergraduate degree and certificate programs. The new degree program is subject to state approval.
  • Graduate at least 200 behavioral health practitioners annually from the proposed bachelor’s degree program once the program is fully operational.
  • Deliver science-based early detection, prevention, and treatment strategies directly into the lives of K-12 children and their families.
  • Accelerate the discovery and dissemination of new technologies and research informed by clinical context.
  • Provide scholarships through a $100 million endowment to graduate a new, diverse and culturally rich workforce prepared to work directly with those in need.

Initial plans for the institute call for 20 new faculty members, who will be involved in training students in children’s behavioral and mental health as well as developing programs and refining approaches for educators, according to the news release.

This gift is monumental,” said Michael H. Schill, University of Oregon president and professor of law. “It enables UO researchers and experts to build on a collective vision to develop innovative and scalable programs, and to address the need for a sustainable workforce that can work directly with our children.”

There was a news conference Tuesday at noon to officially announce the launch of the new institute. Speakers at the news conference included Schill, Guerrero, University of Oregon Provost Patrick Phillips, University of Oregon Vice President for Advancement Mike Andreasen, Ballmer Institute Acting Executing Director Randy Kamphaus, Dr. Laura Lee McIntyre and Dr. Jennifer Pfeifer.

RELATED: Concordia University closure leaves 5,000 students in shock, 1,500 employees laid off (February 2020)

RELATED: US Surgeon General issues advisory on youth mental health crisis (December 2021)

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