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Governor Ned Lamont today announced the launch of CT Health Horizons, a three-year higher education program designed to address statewide shortages in nursing and behavioral health providers.

A collaborative partnership between Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU), the Office of Workforce Strategy (OWS), multiple state agencies, the University of Connecticut (UConn), the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC), and the Connecticut Hospital Association, the program seeks to address the state’s workforce shortage in these critical areas through three strategic pillars:

  • Tuition assistance to incentivize low-income and minority students to enter accelerated and cost-effective nursing and social work programs.
  • Recruitment and retention of faculty to rapidly expand seat capacity and train the next generation of nursing and behavioral health workers.
  • Innovative programs to promote partnerships between employers and institutes of higher education to build career pathways.

The $35 million initiative was approved as part of the state budget bill that Governor Lamont recently signed into law and is funded with federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

OWS and CSCU will serve in a strategic oversight role to connect the efforts of this initiative to Governor Lamont’s overall workforce development strategy for the state. CSCU will serve as the general program manager and recipient of funds and will work in tandem with UConn and CCIC to carry out the program.

“We have a significant nursing shortage in Connecticut, and yet our colleges and universities do not currently have capacity to increase the number of qualified nursing students they serve,” Governor Lamont said. “By making this investment, we are taking a critical step toward expanding the number of nursing seats at our public and private institutions of higher education. We also know that the need for mental health services has only increased during the pandemic. This collaborative approach will help promote a highly educated behavioral health workforce.”

“This significant investment in training nurses and behavioral health providers is exactly the kind of program Congress had in mind when we passed the American Rescue Plan Act to help our nation rebuild from the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation said in a joint statement. “The need for mental health services skyrocketed during the pandemic and an already alarming shortage of nurses is now at an all-time high, leaving our health care systems understaffed at a critical time. We applaud the State of Connecticut for using these federal dollars to make an important investment in the workforce and the health of our communities.”

“Health care – everything from nursing to behavioral health – is core to who we are at CSCU,” President Cheng said. “We offer the highest quality nursing and social work programs, but we need to be able to increase the number of students we serve. This program will help us do just that. We are proud to work with our state and higher education partners to advance Governor Lamont’s workforce goals.”

“This program is an all-around win for Connecticut” Dr. Kelli-Marie Vallieres, Connecticut’s Chief Workforce Officer, said. “Not only are we creating opportunities for disadvantaged populations to pursue rewarding and family-sustaining careers, but we are making a targeted investment to improve the access and quality of health care in our communities. Our vision is to recruit, educate, and employ the next generation of health care workers in-state.”

The initiative is estimated to provide tuition support to 1,200 students entering nursing and social work programs, with a focus on associate degree nursing (ADN) programs, accelerated bachelor in nursing (BSN) programs, and master of social work (MSW) programs. In addition, it is expected to expand educational seat capacity to serve more than 1,000 new students.