Thanks to a grant Millersville University received from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation, local immigrants and refugees will have access to higher-paying jobs. The grant is part of a project created to help solve some of the unique challenges Lancaster is facing. The name of the project is “Diversifying the Mental Health Profession with Career Pathways for Immigrants and Refugees.”
According to the grant’s proposal, one obstacle Lancaster County faces is an inadequate number of mental health providers. Additionally, one tenet of the grant’s purpose statement recognizes that non-native English speakers are severely underrepresented in mental health careers. Due to their need for rapid employment, many immigrants and refugees work low-paying jobs without the opportunity for advancement. This program and grant funding aim to diversify the mental health profession and offer career pathways to those who might not have otherwise had the opportunity.
Data from the grant proposal shows that the demand for behavioral healthcare has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic. Providers are reporting that there have been increases in requests for mental health care, drug abuse and reports of children living in unsafe homes. There are not enough specialists working in the area to meet the increases in demand
As a result, this program will help adult immigrants earn their Registered Behavior Technician certification. Those with this certification can apply to become a Behavioral Health Technician. T.W. Ponessa and Associates Counseling Services, Inc., one of the area’s largest mental health providers, has the capacity to hire 60 Behavioral Health Technicians in this region and has agreed to interview anyone who successfully works with Millersville University to earn their certificationand then applies for a Behavioral Health Technician position. As a technician, members of the program would then have the option to gain valuable experience in that field or continue their education.
Church World Services and The Literacy Council of Lancaster-Lebanon are key partners in this effort. They offer education and career pathway instruction to adults in the area and provide vital support services to immigrants and refugees. This project demonstrates Millersville’s commitment to educating members of the community beyond traditional or non-traditional undergraduates, including those who are unemployed, under-employed, or seeking a new career path.