April 25, 2003
University of Maine at Fort Kent students graduating from the two-year program in human services or four-year program in behavioral science now have the opportunity to work toward, and earn a certification that many of their future employers will require them to have, and they can do it as they earn their degree on campus.
The idea of introducing a Mental Health Rehabilitation Technician (MHRT) community certification program at UMFK started with Jim Killarney, professor of psychology and education, who wanted to assist students and better prepare them for success as they enter the job market, and provide them with a more focused education, so they can be better practitioners. MHRT certification is required by many social service organizations for employment.
Killarney and Lisa Lavoie, administrative assistant in the natural and behavioral sciences division worked for a year with Janice Daley of southern Maine's Muskie Institute to establish the MHRT certification program at UMFK. The Muskie Institute, located on the University of Southern Maine campus, has established a national reputation in the enhancement of state and local government services, particularly in the health and social services areas.
"Until now, our students and graduates have needed to go through the Muskie Institute and take ITV courses to get this certification. Now any student enrolled in the two programs can work toward and earn the certification before they leave campus," said Killarney.
Daley worked with Killarney and Lavoie ensuring that the campus met all criteria for courses offered under the MHRT certification.
Toward that end, the campus also worked with professionals at the Aroostook Mental Health Center to offer additional courses in the existing program that would count toward the official recognition.
"The courses that the councilors at AMHC have been offering have contributed greatly to the students' education," said Killarney.
Officials at the regional mental health center also view cooperation with the university as a win-win situation.
"By working together in this way the University and AMHC are at a better position to serve the community," said Charles Collishaw, director of human resources for AMHC. "The University students have excellent job prospects with AMHC and other human services organizations. By hiring these individuals, AMHC is able to service the mental health and substance abuse needs in the Valley and throughout the County."
Killarney also acknowledged the work of licensed clinical social worker Jacqueline Pauli-Ritz, who has both taught MHRT courses and supervises a community social service internship program for students.
MHRT certification classes are offered to students in both the associate of arts in human services and the bachelor of science in behavioral science programs. Successful completion of the associate degree program allows students to earn a conditional certification, or five of the ten requirements, whereas students who successfully complete the baccalaureate program and opt to satisfy MHRT requirements will be awarded a certification upon graduation.
"UMFK has one of the few programs in the state that gives students the opportunity to get MHRT certified while enrolled in an academic program. This will allow our students to compete very successfully," said Killarney. "This is a major advancement in our responsibility to our students."
The UMFK professor is looking at additional collaborative ventures that would enhance the behavioral science program at the state's northernmost campus. He is looking towards opening up dialogue with faculty members at the University of Maine at Presque Isle about combining resources.
"What I would like to see are joint programs in criminal justice, behavioral science, social work, and human services shared between the two campuses. If our resources and faculty, which are presently both stretched thin, would be combined, we could offer model programs in rural mental health issues, not only in the state, but in the country," said Killarney.