The University of New England will launch a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, the university announced in a news release.

The university says it hopes to bolster the state’s behavioral health workforce and increase interest in the field.

The program aims to prepare graduates to tackle the mental health challenges presented by those in Maine’s senior, immigrant and refugee communities, according to the release.

“Maine’s health care worker shortage deeply affects those who struggle with their mental health,” UNE President James Herbert, a clinical psychologist, in the release. “By educating more mental health professionals to meet rising demand, UNE will help ease workforce shortages and get people the care they need. As Maine’s largest provider of health professionals, UNE has a specific responsibility to address pervasive health issues in our own backyard. This new program will do just that.” 

The university plans to enroll 15 students in the program every year to supplement the state’s number of practitioners. The program will increase the number of new registered nurses entering Maine’s workforce with training in mental health, according to the release.

The program is being launched with support from a $2 million gift from the Glickman Lauder Foundation.