Two community college systems, Northland Pioneer College (NPC), and Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), have received federal funding from the American Rescue Act, administered by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), to address behavioral health workforce shortages in rural Arizona.
House Bill 2691, signed during this year’s legislative session, allocated approximately $9 million in American Rescue Act funds to the two college systems, with another $4.5 million possible, depending on legislative action.
NPC will use its $2.2 million allocation to build and strengthen the college’s new Behavioral Health Studies degree program, which debuted this fall. This includes program tuition waivers and scholarship opportunities totaling nearly 400k that will essentially allow students to complete program requirements with little out-of-pocket cost. In exchange for tuition assistance, students are required to serve in the behavioral health field for a minimum of two years or a period that equals the completed program length, whichever is greater. The program leads to the successful completion of an Associate of Applied Science degree as well as certification opportunities from state and third-party organizations.
“Building more opportunities for students to earn behavioral health degrees and credentials will create a larger and better prepared pool of candidates for critical behavioral health jobs,” said Bill Kennard, AHCCCS Workforce Development Administrator. “Better prepared candidates enable providers to streamline the onboarding process for new workers and ensure members receive care more quickly. Offering substantive, pre-service education and training for aspiring behavioral health workers is one step that will help Arizona meet its growing behavioral health care demands,” said Bill Kennard, AHCCCS Workforce Development Administrator.
Students who complete NPC’s new behavioral health studies program will be able to work directly in areas of mental health treatment, early childhood mental health, developmental disabilities, behavioral training programs, social work, substance abuse treatment, and community education. Students will also participate in hands-on training with internship requirements at local behavioral health facilities.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for our region,” said Jeremy Raisor, NPC Dean of Career and Technical Education. “We appreciate this partnership with AHCCCS in making this program possible at NPC,” he continues. “The communities in Navajo and Apache Counties have struggled with behavioral health challenges and this funding is essential for us to expand access to high-quality educational opportunities that will help fill the critical need for behavioral health professionals in our communities.”
For more information on NPC’s behavioral health program and the scholarship opportunities that are currently available, visit www.npc.edu/behavioral-health-studies.