March 08 2011Alaska has a shortage of health care workers and some of the biggest needs are in behavioral health. In 2007, University of Alaska Associate Vice President of Health Karen Perdue, the former Alaska Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner, said Alaska had 1,033 behavioral health job openings, with a vacancy rate of 13.9 percent and a mean longest vacancy of 17.1 months. In rural Alaska, the vacancy rates and unmet service needs are higher. The Behavioral Health Academy, which takes place on April 4-8 at several locations in Sitka, will help introduce people to the wide variety of behavioral health careers available in Alaska, and let them know what training and skills are needed to fill those positions. The week-long academy is free and open to those ages 16-25. The academy takes place at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) At Kaník Hít Community Health building (1212 Seward Ave., down the hill from SEARHC Mt. Edgcumbe Hospital), at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus and at other locations around Sitka. The Alaska Mental Health Trust is funding the academy, and sponsoring organizations include the Southeast Area Health Education Center (SE AHEC), SEARHC, the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus, Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services (SCAPS), the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Southeast Alaska Career Center (SEACC), Sitka Tribe of Alaska and Mt. Edgecumbe High School. “We’re interested in increasing the number of behavioral health workers at all levels,” said Iva GreyWolf, PhD, the SE AHEC director and a clinical psychologist. “This is one of the classes of occupations in Alaska that has extremely high vacancy rate and an extremely high turnover rate from entry level to psychiatrist. This is a way to help people get a foot in the door. We’re trying to get people more information about these careers.” The academy is open to anyone ages 16-25, and the target audience is older high school students, college students and people in their early 20s. A limited number of travel scholarships are available for students older than 18, but participants from outside Sitka will have to pay their own housing expenses. Each participant will complete a personal career interest inventory, which is used to match a person’s skills and interests to different occupations. The academy also features agency visits and tours, and information about careers, services and training resources. The academy will have information about several careers — psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, chemical dependency counselor, behavioral health aide counselor, case manager, licensed professional counselor and social worker. While the academy is free, participants do have to complete a short application that is due by March 25 to the Southeast Alaska Career Center (SEACC). Applications are available at school counselors’ offices and at SEACC, 205 Baranof St., Sitka, 99835. Applications also can be downloaded at http://www.seahecak.org/ or at http://www.ssd.k12.ak.us/SEACC/index.htm, and completed applications can be faxed to (907) 966-1353. The application includes a student statement and requires one letter of recommendation. For additional information, contact event coordinator Meghan Doughty at (503) 545-7761 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Iva GreyWolf at (907) 966-8674 or email@example.com.