Unlocking Potential: Behavioral Health Micro-Credential Certificates

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For those students looking to be better prepared to step into the behavioral health workplace, obtaining micro-credential certificates are invaluable. These accelerated programs, ranging from six to 20 course credits, also provide career advancement opportunities for existing behavioral health and healthcare workers. Out of the five micro-credentials being offered, four can be completed in one semester. 

“These credentials allow students to enter the behavioral health workforce with high-demand industry skills,” said Kristina Ciarlo, Department Chair, Behavioral Health at the Community College of Aurora (CCA). “The students are equipped with foundational skills in behavioral health and substance misuse treatment. Some of the micro-credentials are Medicaid-reimbursable, increasing the employers’ ability to utilize these entry-level positions in effective ways. Since the micro-credentials stack into the AAS degrees, and will build into the BAS degrees, they are a great way for students to earn while they learn.”

Five micro-credential certificates and the two Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree pathways are being offered at CCA in the Fall 2024 semester, but the work to get here started over two years ago. Through Senate Bill 22-181, the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA), and individual institutions like CCA partnered to create varied educational pathways to increase and diversify the behavioral health workforce, especially for entry-level positions.

The five micro-credentials were piloted within CCCS and revised during this time period.

“The multiple program pathways offer several on-ramps and merge-ramps, allowing students to start working and/or pursue additional education,” added Ciarlo. “This contrasts with the more traditional route, in which a master’s degree has been needed before being able to work in the field. By expanding the pathway options, we are also increasing education and career opportunities for those who have been traditionally excluded from the field.” 

The Behavioral Health micro-credential certificates all stack into the Behavioral Health AAS degrees (Addiction Recovery or Mental Health and Social Work) so are a natural part of the pathway, and all credits build toward that next educational level. The smallest micro-credential, Behavioral Health Plus, is a great addition to any degree or certificate. Only requiring two courses, it allows students to develop foundational behavioral health knowledge, as well as entry-level crisis management and de-escalation skills. 

“As the demand for behavioral healthcare grows, these skills are vital for any profession, especially those that involve working with people,” said Ciarlo. “Since most of the micro-credential certificates can be completed in one semester, they are a beneficial option for students wanting to explore behavioral health to find out if it is a good fit for them.”