Ballmer Institute, UO Athletics join to aid student-athletes

A new collaboration at the University of Oregon will develop programs to improve the mental health of student-athletes at K-12 schools across the state while offering additional resources to enhance care for UO student-athletes.

The UO’s Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health and Department of Athletics will join forces to develop programs that equip children with skills to promote well-being and address the mental health needs of student-athletes from a young age. It also will support the mental health needs of UO students enrolled in the Ballmer Institute’s child behavioral health training program.

Made possible by a gift from Nancy and Dave Petrone, the initiative will include the establishment of two full-time positions, one at the Ballmer Institute and the other within the medical team at UO Athletics. The new staff clinicians will develop prevention programs and educational content to improve the behavioral health outcomes of student-athletes, with the Ballmer Institute staff member focusing on resources to be delivered in K-12 schools.

As the program launches at UO Portland's new northeast campus in fall 2024, emphasis will be placed on combining strategies to promote wellness among undergraduate students as they learn to deliver mental health services to youth in the community. The efforts are designed not only to support the mental health needs of student-providers throughout the program but also to improve retention in the behavioral health field.

“The Ballmer Institute is developing a range of innovative programs to address the growing need for behavioral health support among children and adolescents,” said Katie McLaughlin, executive director of the Ballmer Institute. “We are excited to collaborate with the University of Oregon Department of Athletics to create new approaches to promote well-being in student-athletes beginning early in life, and we are grateful for the generous gift from David and Nancy Petrone that has made this partnership possible.”

The new clinician within Oregon Athletics will focus on the mental health needs of UO student-athletes and young adults, strengthening the capacity of services and increasing the clinical hours available to student-athletes. Providing robust mental health support is crucial to ensuring the holistic well-being of student-athletes. 

"This innovative collaboration with the Ballmer Institute will enhance our support for Oregon student-athletes, and we are grateful to Nancy and Dave Petrone for being the catalysts for this partnership," said UO Director of Athletics Rob Mullens. "Providing the best possible mental health care for our student-athletes has long been one of our top priorities, and we are proud to continue to be a national leader in this area. This collaboration will significantly strengthen our ability to continue providing the support our student-athletes need to thrive academically, athletically and personally."

The partnership has been in the works since early 2023, with both organizations dedicating extensive time and resources. The search process for the new full-time staff positions is currently underway, with an expected start date in early 2024. 

“We eagerly anticipate collaborating with the Ballmer Institute on this important initiative to further increase our capacity in providing mental health services to Oregon student-athletes,” said UO Athletics Director of Athletic Medicine Dr. Craig Davidson. “This generous gift will also support the development of new programming to promote a broader culture of wellness among all Oregon student-athletes, and we look forward to many more positive impacts as a result of this partnership.”

Nancy and Dave Petrone are longtime supporters of both the academic and athletic missions at the University of Oregon. They served as lead donors for the Women in Flight campaign and have made leadership gifts to the Lundquist College of Business, the Black Cultural Center and the Department of Economics and Financial Literacy, as well as major gifts to the Knight Campus, School of Journalism and Communications, College of Education, College of Law, and Presidential Science Initiatives.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to support such a valuable and innovative partnership that will make a positive difference in the mental health of numerous young people in the state of Oregon,” said a statement from the Petrones. “By investing in this initiative, we can help unlock the potential of K-12 students in Oregon and University of Oregon student-athletes, and we invite others to join us in this mission to create a brighter, healthier future for all.”

More information about the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health is available on its website. Information on the UO Athletics Department is available at