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100 Clinicians Now Provide Critical Mental Health Services to 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, congratulates the newest, fifth class of 21 clinicians who are pioneering a new model for mental health services in Africa. With 100 local mental health clinicians trained since 2011, all 15 counties in Liberia now have access to at least two service providers. These clinicians largely work in primary care clinics and hospitals in remote, rural areas.

Liberia is on target to reach its goal of expanding access to mental health care to 70 percent of the population within the next few years. Previously, this nation of 3.8 million had one psychiatrist to meet the needs of at least 300,000 Liberians suffering from mental illness.

Today, the Carter Center's fifth class - 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 the capital city of Monrovia.

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.

Other program alumni have made a lasting impact on their community by establishing new services and developing capacity at the ground level. Clinicians have opened eight clinical practices in prisons systems, trained nurse midwives to screen for maternal depression, treated refugees from the Ivory Coast conflict, and supported the nation's first mental health consumer organization.

The largest concentration of Carter Center-trained clinicians, 30, 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.

"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.

"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 and its partners are working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to train a total of 150 mental health clinicians. 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.

The Carter Center's Mental Health Program in Liberia is supported by contributions from individuals, foundations, governments, and corporations. The Center's partnerships include the John P. Hussman Foundation, which aims to provide life-changing assistance through medical research, education, and direct aid to vulnerable individuals with urgent needs or significant disabilities. The Hussman Foundation's three-year commitment to the Mental Health Program in Liberia is critical to the program's success.

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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