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New Behavioral Health Technician program

In Utah—and throughout the nation—qualified behavioral health professionals are in high demand, but short supply. But thanks to a Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative Grant awarded by the Utah System of Higher Education, the College of Social Work is advancing the University of Utah’s efforts to address this shortfall through undergraduate coursework that prepares students for state certification as a Behavioral Health Technician (BHT).

Under the supervision of licensed mental health professionals, BHTs support the overall treatment and care of individuals with mental health or behavioral disorders. This may include performing intake assessments, assisting in the development of treatment plans or implementing crisis intervention strategies.

Students must complete required coursework within a 12-month period. Although offered through the College of Social Work, coursework and subsequent state certification is open to all enrolled undergraduate U students in any discipline. The curriculum focuses on developing competencies around core skill sets, including professional advocacy, ethics and applied therapeutic communication skills. The coursework ties directly to the scope of practice defined by the state, and includes virtual clinical simulations.

“The goal is to broaden our state’s base of skilled behavioral health professionals, alleviating some of the pressure on an overburdened system,” said Philip Osteen, dean of the College of Social Work. “Not everyone needs services from a licensed behavioral health provider. The state’s new Behavioral Health Technician certification creates a stratified workforce based on service need, and provides an opportunity for students to enter the behavioral health workforce more quickly. It is simultaneously creating a pathway for students to progress through more advanced educational and training programs. We’re preparing our workforce to more effectively triage behavioral health concerns according to their level of need.”

Over the next year, the College of Social Work will collaborate with other academic disciplines interested in adding additional course options to the curriculum approved by the state. The addition of coursework options from other colleges and departments will offer students a deeper understanding of the allied human services professionals with whom they are likely to interact.

“I applaud our state for thinking creatively about ways to address the behavioral health workforce shortage,” said Osteen. “This initiative will prepare early career professionals to meet the needs of our communities, as well as offer real world experiences that can help students focus their career trajectories.  Behavioral Health Technicians will benefit and support Utahns in a multitude of ways.”

Undergraduate students and academic programs interested in participating in coursework required for state certification as a Behavioral Health Technician can reach out to Stephanie Bank, director of the Bachelor of Social Work Program in the College of Social Work.