Shawnee State University: Building a Behavioral Health Workforce 

With support from ARC’s INSPIRE initiative, many Appalachian communities are addressing substance use disorder (SUD) by bolstering recovery-to-work programs and related support services. Portsmouth, Ohio and the surrounding area – which includes both Southern Ohio and several counties in north central Appalachian Kentucky – is no exception, with a variety of community partners offering critical services for individuals in recovery. There is a growing gap, however, in the amount of behavioral and mental health professionals available to support workers in recovery.   

Using a $500,000 ARC INSPIRE grant, Shawnee State University (SSU) is assembling an incredible partnership to both address workforce shortages and help Appalachians in recovery better access the services they need. 

SSU, through its Confronting the Behavioral Health Workforce Crisis project, will collaborate with five regional partners, including Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC), and Valley View Health Center (VVHC) Community Action Organization of Pike County to launch a new Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program to create a pipeline of trained, licensed behavioral and mental health workers in Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio. 

INSPIRE funding will be used to enhance awareness and recruitment efforts for SSU programs supporting the local recovery ecosystem, including the BSW and counseling programs. Targeted outreach to regional guidance counselors at VVHC, community treatment providers at Hopesource, King’s Daughter Medical Center, and SOMC, and foster care system representatives from Shawnee Family Health Center will support individuals in recovery and identify more interested candidates for current and future opportunities in the recovery ecosystem.   

The INSPIRE funding will also make SSU’s Social Work and counseling programs more accessible, building on a tuition-free path for students who are eligible for Pell grants and helping connect more students to organizations offering tuition assistance. 

“Shawnee State is part of this community and our programs are a reflection of what our employers, residents and students want and need,” Dr. Christine Raber, Interim Dean of SSU’s College of Professional Studies, said. “We’re grateful to ARC for helping us address this critical need in our community.” 

ARC is proud to partner with institutions like Shawnee State University who are bridging education, training, and workforce gaps to help more individuals access recovery services and obtain meaningful employment in Appalachia.  

In September 2023, ARC announced nearly $14 million in INSPIRE awards, which brought us to a grand total of nearly $46 million invested in recovery-to-work projects. Learn more about the awards.