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Kaiser Permanente program helps educate next generation of professionals

To help the need for more healthcare workers, Kaiser Permanente's program is aiming to make it easier for people to become counselors, therapists and more.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The need for mental health professionals is growing, according to a recent study by the California Health Care Foundation. The report says access continues to be a barrier for adults seeking mental health care. 

To help, a Kaiser Permanente program is aiming to make it easier for people to become counselors, therapists and other mental health care workers.

Michael Ramirez is a student in the Masters Counseling program at Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences and working to join the in-demand field. 

“I've always kind of had a foot in the mental health field,” said Ramirez. “I worked at a foster home with autistic children when I was about 18, or 19.”

Dr. Marlen Kanagui-Munoz, his teacher and a psychologist, says the need for mental health professionals was only amplified by the pandemic. 

"We have a huge need for mental health clinicians, we have experienced so much stress throughout the pandemic, we already had a shortage,” said Kanagui-Munoz.

A recent study by the California Health Care Foundation finds nearly 6% of adults reported needing mental health treatment or counseling but weren't able to get the care they need.

"We're seeing communities who have never really asked for therapy at these kind of higher rates do so not just nationally, but globally,” said Kanagui-Munoz.

To try and address the challenges, Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences is working to expand and train the next generation of licensed marriage and family therapists.

 “we're thinking about therapists, we are wanting to think about people who are highly empathetic, and who are wanting to help people be their best selves,” said Kanagui-Munoz. 

This includes an increased focus on students representing diverse communities.

Kaiser says more than four of every 10 students speak a language other than English, and more than seven of 10 identify as a person of color. 

“It allows you to be more culturally sensitive to the patient or client that you'll be serving,” said Ramirez. 

Kanagui-Munoz agrees, noting that “people feel comfortable talking to someone who looks like them, or speaking to someone who speaks their language."

Students interested in this program don’t have to put their lives on pause. The program offers hybrid learning environments, meaning students can split their work between online and in-person classes. Ramirez says this has been helpful, especially during the pandemic.

In person classes are held at their Richmond campus once a week with the remaining classes being held online.  

It also gives students the opportunity to jump straight into the field after finishing their classes. 

"We're really proud to hopefully offer them jobs post graduation and have them join us on the provider side very soon here,” said Kanagui-Munoz.

The school is now recruiting its next class of students for its two year long Master of Science in Counseling program. The deadline to apply is Feb. 17 and can be found HERE

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