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UJ Helps ND Meet Mental Health Needs

The United States is facing a shortage in the mental health care workforce, and North Dakota is no exception.

According to data from the Health Resources and Services Administration, 49.7 percent of North Dakota’s mental health needs are being met, the national average is 47.7 percent.

Stutsman County is a designated high-needs area based on the elderly ratio of the region, said Terri Lang, project coordinator with the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

To help with the problems, the University of Jamestown added a master’s degree in clinical counseling this fall. The program was created to help address the shortage of mental health care workers in the state, said Paul Olson, UJ vice president of academic affairs.

The master’s program prepares students to work in various mental health areas, such as hospitals, school counseling centers, substance abuse treatment, private practice and mental health centers.

Jennifer Lipetzky, program director, said the need for counselors stems partially from the reduction of the stigma in seeking mental health care. People are more willing to come forward, but the number of therapists and other professionals is not increasing at the same rate, Lipetzky said. Kids today are also feeling more pressures that can be addressed through counseling, she said.

“The rewarding part is seeing people change what they are thinking and feeling,” Lipetzky said. “If people understood everything the field has, more would be interested in going into it.”

Lipetzky worked with the North Dakota State Hospital and the South Central Human Service Center to create internships and practicum opportunities for students in the program.

A Senate bill passed during the 2015 North Dakota legislative session requires mandatory mental health training for teachers and administrators.

South Central Human Service Center Regional Director Dan Cramer said the center worked with UJ to create internships for the master’s program students. Cramer said he would be open to recruiting graduates of the program.

“There is a need statewide for master’s-level therapists,” Cramer said. “It’s exciting for us to see the opportunity for the center but also other agencies and providers to grow.”

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Posted:December 9, 2016


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