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Local, Carter Center-Trained Mental Health Clinicians Now Reach All 15 Counties in Liberia


Contact: Paige Rohe, The Carter Center, prohe@emory.edu, +1-404-420-5129

ATLANTA...The Carter Center's Mental Health Program in Liberia, in partnership with the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, announces that efforts to improve access to mental health care in the post-conflict nation now reach all 15 counties in Liberia, with each county having access to at least one locally trained and credentialed mental health clinician. Only a few years prior, Liberia, a nation of 3.8 million people, had one psychiatrist to meet the needs of at least 300,000 Liberians suffering from mental illness each year.

Today, the Carter Center's fourth class of 15 mental health clinicians — made up of Liberian nurses, physician assistants, and nurse educators — graduated from the six-month, free Post-Basic Mental Health Training Program held this term in Bong County. These clinicians will join 63 others who largely work in primary care clinics and hospitals in remote, rural areas.

The largest concentration of Carter Center-trained clinicians, 23, serves a population of more than 500,000 in Montserrado County, where the capital, Monrovia, is located. At least one in five people living in Montserrado need access to mental health care.

In Grand Gedeh, a region of Liberia with the greatest shortage of health personnel, six mental health clinicians provide services to Liberians as well as thousands of refugees from the conflict in the Ivory Coast.

"Liberia has made great progress in building a brighter future for its citizens by investing in mental health, an issue affecting many worldwide," said former First Lady of the United States and Carter Center Co-founder Rosalynn Carter. "The Carter Center, in partnership with the Liberian government, is well on its way to creating a mental health workforce that can serve as a model for other countries."

"We knew the need for mental health services in Liberia was great, but the more clinicians that go into the field the more we learn just how much of a difference these health care workers are making in the ability of entire communities to build better lives for themselves," said Dr. Janice Cooper, a native Liberian and project lead for the Carter Center's mental health initiative in Liberia.

The psychological impact of over a decade of civil conflict, which ended in 2003, has contributed to a mental health crisis in Liberia, intensified by: misconceptions, stigma, and resulting discrimination surrounding mental illnesses; lack of mental health care training for health professionals; and inadequate supplies of necessary medications. The Carter Center's Mental Health Liberia initiative was established in 2010 to help the Liberian government dramatically expand mental health care access to 70 percent of the country.

Clinicians trained through the program receive credentials from the Liberian government that allow them to return to their former mid-level positions in primary care clinics throughout the country to help integrate mental health services into the primary care system.

Some of the graduates are educators and will return to university classrooms to ensure the next generation of primary care workers will be better prepared to address mental health problems.

The Carter Center and its partners are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to train a total mental health workforce of 150 professionals. The program also supports, in partnership with the ministry, efforts to standardize psychosocial credentialing for 300 other health workers who previously received some minimal mental health training from nongovernmental organizations working in the country immediately after the war.

Editor's Note:

Learn more about the Carter Center's mental health work in Liberia >

Meet Margaret Ballah: On the Frontlines of Mental Health Care in Liberia >

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"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

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