Posted: Aug 28, 2013 9:30 PM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
Updated: Aug 28, 2013 9:31 PM
HELENA - A relatively new program at Helena College is addressing the critical need for trained mental health care professionals.
Dr. Nathan Munn, an instructor of psychology and consciousness studies at Helena College, designed a program for Mental Health Direct Care.
Munn said, "In the mental health system there is a level of care that includes case managers, group home staff, day treatment staff, etcetera. There's this whole level of care that's called direct care workers. Educational components of that vary widely, from bachelor's degree down to high school degree, but none of them really prepare them for that professional level."
The entire program is transferable to any school in the Montana University System, which is why it worked so well for Janette Clark and Alyssa McNary, who completed the program, went on to get bachelors and then masters degrees.
Both work in Helena at the Center For Mental Health and each said their interest in the field was sparked by a Psych 101 class.
"I was so enthralled in it and I loved it. It just really brought a lot out of me and so that's when he approached me with the mental health direct care program that he was developing," Clark said.
Munn said that since the first graduating class, each year there are between seven to 10 students who come out of the program. He hopes to see that number grow.
The Lewis & Clark County City Health Department has identified mental illness as a top priority in their community health plan in terms of access to care, early detection and screening and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.
This program is designed to create a workforce that will do just that.
"The ones that I've kept in contact with, which is most of them, have either been in the field working or have gone on to get their bachelors or higher degree, or both," Munn said.
McNary said, "You can read about mental health issues all you want in a textbook, but until you experience it, that's when it really led me to further my education."
"My hope is that we can follow this along and see how much this affects the system in general," Munn said.