The North Shore Workforce Board aims to recruit and train more mental health counselors

said Mary Sarris, executive director of the Workforce Council, one of 16 Massachusetts regional councils that help job seekers and businesses with their employment needs.

Sarris said the shortage of mental health workers, whose base wage ranges from $20 to $25 an hour, reflects the high demand for mental health services. In response to this request, the state recently launched a behavioral health helpline and designated 25 mental health express centers.

Sarris said the Workforce Board applied for the grant after hearing from hospitals last year about their urgent need for trained workers to staff mental health units.

Under the program, participants will earn a certificate or associate’s degree in Human Services at North Shore Community College. After completing their first two courses, these students will be eligible for placement in a hospital, enabling them to start working even as they continue their training in college.

The scholarship and $136,691 in matching funds provided by the hospitals will cover students’ tuition costs for the first six courses. Students have access to tuition reimbursement offered by hospitals and other types of financial aid to help with the costs of completing a certificate or degree.

The seven-week classes are designed for working adults and can be taken simultaneously.

“This is a great opportunity for people who want to get into this field,” Sarris said.

Erin Gilmore, Chair of Human Services and Developmental Disabilities at North Shore Community College, said the college is “committed to training the North Shore’s much-needed healthcare workforce and is excited to partner with local hospitals to offer free, highly specialized training programs to recruit new workers and incumbents.” jobs.”

Salem State University participates through an existing partnership in which it accepts credits towards a bachelor’s degree earned by North Shore Community College students with an associate’s degree, providing them with a path toward further education.

Each year the mental health program will have two groups of 20 students each. Half of the participants will be current employees who hold other jobs in hospitals.

The state award came under the Donnelly Workforce Success Grants Program, funded in part by the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

Salem Hospital has a 120-bed inpatient mental health unit, along with 24 emergency department beds — 16 of the newly added treatment beds — according to Maria Stacy, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the hospital.

Stacy described the new workforce board initiative as “very exciting” for the hospital.

“One of our longstanding struggles, which has intensified since the pandemic, is getting enough staff,” she said, noting that over the past several years, the hospital has always been able to provide only 100-105 of its 120 inpatient beds.

Beverly Hospital has an 18-bed psychiatric unit, while Addison Gilbert Hospital has 18-20 beds. BayRidge is a 60-bed psychiatric hospital.

Tom Sands, president of Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals, appreciated the state’s support “of our shared mission of investing in the mental health and well-being of our community by improving the career path of mental health counselors.”

The latest grant, he said, “helps us invest in candidates who are committed to advancing their careers as mental health counselors, allowing us to build our ranks to support our patients by increasing access to mental health services, a critical component of supporting the health and well-being of our communities.”

John Laidler can be reached at the address

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