Amador, along with a handful of other counties, is leveraging state funding to grow the ranks of peer mental health providers. The scholarship program relies on workforce development funds from California’s Mental Health Services Act, which established a millionaire’s tax for mental health prevention and intervention in 2004.
Monterey and San Bernardino counties also use the funds to train community members with real-life experience, with the goal of hiring them in county-run mental health clinics. They also provide financial assistance to residents pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees, in the hopes that those students will work in the area after becoming licensed.
Some advocates want to see the peer-based mental health workforce expand. A recent bill would have established a formal, standardized certification for peer providers across the state, potentially creating a clearer career path for community-based mental health workers and making their services Medi-Cal reimbursable.
For many in Amador County, becoming a peer mental health worker wouldn’t be possible without online education options. California is looking at digital learning more broadly as a way to make people more employable.
In a 2018 budget speech, then-Gov. Jerry Brown talked about the need to reach “stranded” adults who have high school diplomas but no college degrees. He allocated $120 million to an online-only community college, designed for the 2.5 million Californians ages 25 to 34 who struggle to participate in traditional classrooms. The school, called Calbright College, launched in early October.
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