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Behavioral health support: A new career path at STLCC

Mental health. It carries powerful meaning, varying perspectives and challenges.

As healthcare reform evolves across the country, support positions in the helping profession are critical for better client outcomes and experiences.

Courses begin spring 2019
St. Louis Community College is establishing a new program of study in spring 2019 – behavioral health support. Students will earn an Associate in Applied Science in a two-year, full-time program with hands-on experience to prepare for entry-level positions in career areas of human services, community mental health, hospitals, schools and more.

Jenna Mueller, program coordinator for behavioral health support, is tasked with launching the new field of study at STLCC.

“It’s been a thrill to meet prospective students and be able to offer them a path to a career that they have a serious passion for. Behavioral health support is a caring profession, and both an art and a science,” Mueller said.

“Behavioral health support workers focus on helping people develop skills, access resources and learn to manage their illness to be successful in the living, working, learning and social environments of their choice, throughout their lives. Hence, the daunting nature of the work – people’s wellbeing is a stake in this profession.

“This program is the portal to entry into the mental health profession. I am honored to have been chosen to run it. With this program, St. Louis Community College has become the first in this region to offer behavioral health support,” Mueller said.

Launching a new program
Starting a new degree program doesn’t happen quickly. Behavioral health support at STLCC is the result of years of networking, identifying workforce needs, collaboration and partnerships since August 2016.

To date, a small number of students have been accepted into the program.

Kathy Flynn is among the first. “It’s exciting. We get to be pioneers!”

Flynn explained that her interest in behavioral health support started when her daughter, who is now in her 20s, was diagnosed as bi-polar.

Since then, Flynn has “come to realize that people with mental illness are some of the most underserved in our community.”

After talking with an advisor, “we came to the conclusion that this program would be a good fit for me. Since I’m older than the average student, the length of the program greatly appealed to me,” said Flynn.

“When I graduate I hope to find an exciting new career in a hospital setting. Who knows? I may even pursue a bachelor’s or even master’s in the field.”

Admission Requirements
Students interested in behavioral health support must meet requirements such as:

  • A cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale
  • Letter of reference
  • Complete a criminal background check
  • Participate in a personal interview

Students should be interested in counseling, psychology, social work and an array of aspects of health.

Behavioral health support includes general education components and a concentration in behavioral health for a total of 61 credit hours. Graduates may transfer to a four-year college or university for a Bachelor of Science.

According to a 2016 study by the Department of Mental Health, there are approximately 2,000 community health support workers in Missouri, with a 42 percent turnover rate. It results in 500 new job openings each year.

The anticipated salary for those with associate degrees, per DMH, is between $28,000-32,000 annually; comparable to that of bachelor’s degree technicians.

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