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May 9, 2021

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Clark College Offers Much Needed 4 Year Degree

Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Services (BASHS) degree treats both substance abuse and mental health issues

For years, healthcare tended to view substance abuse disorders and mental health issues as two separate conditions needing separate treatment. Recently, however, research has shown that the two issues are often intertwined inpatient —leading to the need for a new kind of healthcare professional trained in treating both substance abuse and mental health issues.

A Clark College bachelor’s degree program is designed to meet this new need. The college’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Services (BASHS) degree program is in its third year, and students from the program are getting “snatched up” for work before they even graduate, according to Dr. Marcia Roi, the program coordinator.

Roi meets with an advisory council of local employers once a quarter and said for years they’ve asked for a program like this. In the past, clients had a mental health counselor and a drug and alcohol counselor.

“We’re giving them the same thing in one person,” Roi said. “It’s a more holistic model.”

A more holistic model is certainly one that helps right now, with so many people struggling because of the pandemic and resulting quarantine. One of the most dangerous times for people with substance abuse or mental health disorder can be while they’re in isolation.

“The Clark County Crisis Line is up 48 percent, as far as calls,” Roi said. “Isolation, for people with substance abuse issues or mental health issues, is devastating.”

Roi said the potential for jobs in the region is growing because Southwest Washington was ahead of the curve in integrating Medicaid services. Clark, Skamania, and Klickitat counties were all early adopters, so clients have just one organization managing their physical health, mental health, and chemical dependency issues.

“We’re four years ahead of the rest of the state of Washington,” Roi said. “The jobs are out there. The salaries are definitely coming up. All of these treatment facilities are growing.”

The 90-credit program can be completed in two years by full-time students who already have an associate degree. The program itself is designed for working students, with classes two nights a week and online electives, making it an even more attractive option for those whose lives have been thrown off by the pandemic and are looking for a change.

“Our program is made up of working adults, people making mid-life career changes,” Roi said. “We have people from the trades, people who lost their job through downsizing, and gig workers who lost their jobs through the pandemic.”

To get into the bachelor’s program, students need to have completed a two-year degree. So far, many students in the bachelor’s program have come from Clark College’s Addiction Counseling Education associate degree program. However, students with degrees from other institutions in related fields can also enter the program.

One attraction of the BASHS program is that it provides students with all the educational requirements necessary to sit for the Washington Department of Health Chemical Dependency Professional exam. Another benefit of the program is its focus on real-world skills.

Students create a real treatment and discharge plans in class, although not for actual patients. With the exception of Roi herself, all faculty members still work in the industry, meaning that they bring up-to-date information on current practice to their instruction.  (This is another reason to offer classes at night.)

“This is going to be a curriculum that is going to be updated,” Roi said. “That’s why we have practitioners out there. I’m the only full-time faculty member. Everyone else is out there doing it during the day, so they bring in that relevant information. We make things as ‘real-life’ as possible.”

In keeping with that focus, Roi said the program also provides students with the tools they need to keep themselves mentally healthy in this emotionally challenging—but also rewarding—field. Faculty check in with their students regularly to make sure they’re able to fit their schoolwork into the rest of their lives.

“You can’t just give them a piece of paper and say, ‘Here, follow these classes,’” Roi said. “We weave this into their lives because the other aspect of this work is it’s a high-burnout field. These people are juggling jobs [and], kids. Some are taking care of their own parents.”

Roi said there is a lot of talk about “counselor self-care” in the program to ensure students are taking care of themselves so they can, in turn, take care of their clients.

“We make it clear to students that they need to be role models,” Roi said. “They need to be role models so their own clients can see them living healthy lives. We have mid-life career changers who sometimes have to ‘stop out,’ we call it, for a semester. But we let them jump back in when they’re ready. Kids only grow up once. There are no do-overs. These classes will be offered again.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Phone: 971-999-0205
Email: mroi@clark.edu

Website: www.clark.edu/cc/bashs

Facebook: Facebook.com/ClarkCollege

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