The College Scholarship Fund
Investing in the Future of Mental Health Care
One in five Americans suffer from a mental illness but only half of adults and just over half of youth receive treatment, in part due to a lack of providers. Recent studies have found that the majority of non-metropolitan counties do not have mental health professionals available. As a large provider of mental health services in central Maine, Kennebec Behavioral Health strives to make services more accessible and part of the agency’s solution is to encourage teens and young adults to pursue careers in the field.
Kennebec Behavioral Health believes that investing in the education and training of individuals who will become our future behavioral health professionals is important to the future health of Maine residents and the mental health field itself. Workforce development specific to mental health and substance use disorder is key to assuring that KBH will be able to fulfill its mission for many years to come.
As awareness around mental health increases, the need for providers likewise increases and has led to an unprecedented demand for psychiatrists and other behavioral professionals. Due to a lack of providers, mental health can be seen as a last resort in health care instead of a preventative measure. This can lead to full blown crises that could have been prevented. To help more people advance in the mental health field as professionals, KBH has developed one new program.
This year, KBH decided to sponsor a new college scholarship program to encourage academics and future careers in the mental health field. Each May, up to eight $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to selected students at participating area high schools. This year, students who were awarded with a scholarship graduated from Cony High School, Gardiner Area High School, Lawrence High School, Maranacook High School, Skowhegan High School, Waterville High School and Winslow High School.
Eligible students must be accepted at an accredited college, university or technical school, including but not limited to Kennebec Valley Community College, UNE and USM. Students must also plan to major in a behavioral health field and have at least a B average or equivalent in high school.
Applications from local high school students highlighted the need not only for more mental health awareness and services but also for more investment in the future of the field. One awardee wrote of how mental illness has affected her life as she dealt with living in the foster system and her siblings struggled with mental illness. Her application showcased a passion to use her experience and help families in the future as a psychiatrist.
In creating this program, KBH has become more aware of the need to create opportunities for students who wish to pursue a career in the behavioral field by investing in students themselves through the scholarships. These students will be the future of health care and will help fill the void of providers more effectively.
Community members can help KBH with this mission by supporting the College Scholarship Program. On Saturday, November 3rd, KBH will be hosting its third annual comedy event, A Night Out. Featuring the comedy improv group, Mainely Improv, a basket raffle and a 50/50 raffle, all proceeds of the event will benefit the program. Tickets can be purchased or donations made online at www.kbhmaine.org/a_night_out.
In the past, A Night Out has supported KBH’s Vocational Clubhouses and its Substance Use Disorder Program. Both programs support individuals struggling with a mental health disorder to help them achieve success. Whether the program encourages success by providing social or employment opportunities or promoting recovery from substance use, they both play a part in the success of Maine’s communities and economy.
Likewise, the Scholarship Program will foster and create opportunities in academics and employment for future generations.
Elizabeth Keane, Communications Specialist