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Cypress College Psychiatric Tech Program Filling Crucial O.C. Need Programs

January 23, 2019

According to the California Health Care Foundation, “nearly one in six California adults has a mental health need, and one in 20 suffers from a serious mental illness that makes it difficult to carry out major life activities.” Add to this the compounding effects of the national opioid epidemic, and it’s easy to see why medical professionals and governmental policy makers are starting to focus on what California State Assembly Member Phillip Chen has called “California’s growing mental health and homelessness crisis.”

But for graduates of Cypress College’s Psychiatric Technology Program, California’s mental health issues are nothing new. As one of the oldest “Psych Tech” programs in the state – and the only one in Orange County – it has long been a leader in the treatment and care of those suffering from mental illness.

“There are tens of thousands of children and adults who need care, and the numbers are growing,” says Jaime Ramos, Director of the Psychiatric Technology Program at Cypress College. “The thing to remember is that many with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses will need care for their entire lifespan. We need individuals more than ever who have the right training to help these individuals live richer and fuller lives.”

Founded in 1969 in conjunction with the Fairview Developmental Center, Cypress College’s Psych Tech program is a 2-year certificate that prepares students to pass the state licensure exam and quickly enter the workforce. Combining theoretical courses and practical training in such areas as nursing fundamentals and in-patient and community mental health, it also includes a semester-long study of developmental disabilities, which makes it unique among mental health education programs.

Because of the way the program is designed, students who wish to complete a full associate degree will find that all they have left to complete are their General Education requirements and electives.

Ramos, himself a graduate of Cypress’s Psych Tech program, is a prime example of the power of career education. Like many adults, career education provided Ramos an effective and affordable way to secure entry into a new profession. After starting as a dental assistant in the US Navy, Ramos entered the reserves, became a Registered Nurse, and achieved the rank of Nurse Corp Officer. Upon leaving active duty, he got a job at the Fairview Developmental Center, but was told he would need more training if he wanted to keep it. Because he enjoyed his work and wanted to continue, he decided to enroll at Cypress College, where he eventually became a full-time instructor, and later, the program’s director. To this day, Ramos continues to work at Fairview.

Given his own firsthand experiences with career education, Ramos is quick to emphasize how quickly a program like this pays for itself.

“With the cost of a program like this at a community college, you can almost pay the whole cost of your education with your first month’s salary if you find a job with the state,” says Ramos. “I always tell my students this — you get your education, pay for it with your first month’s salary, and then you have a career for life.”

Ramos isn’t the only one who thinks his Program is exceptional. As a 2019 recipient of a Silver Workforce Star from the Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy Strong Workforce program, a California Community College initiative aimed at improving career education outcomes for students, Cypress’s Psych Tech program has been recognized for its ability to raise the incomes of its students by 203%, while placing 100% of them in jobs related to their field of study.

Students like Monica Vargas, who as one of the program’s standouts, puts it like this: “You know, you’re in school and you…learn algebra, and you’re like, ‘When am I ever gonna use this?’ And then you’re learning crisis intervention and […] you sit there and you’re the one giving the therapy, and you’re the one really just helping people out, and it’s just, like, whoa, I’m actually using what I learned.

“I definitely think that Cypress does a really good job of really explaining and really being there for the student.”

As with all successful career education programs, these outcomes are not only the consequence of expert teaching and talented students, but also the result of a curriculum developed around the needs of regional employers and partnerships.

“Our community stakeholders provide important insight into how we can make our programs better,” explains Ramos. “For example, our graduates were being hired to be in charge of whole units of people, but they didn’t have the management or leadership skills they needed to be effective supervisors. We responded by creating a course that teaches these skills with an emphasis on ethical conduct.

“This is a critical part of what we do.”

And after all, getting better is what career education, and mental health practices, are all about.

“If students want to work in a field where the need is urgent, and if giving comfort and care to people who are vulnerable is your passion,” says Ramos, “this is the place for you.”

For more information about Cypress College’s award-winning Psychiatric Technology Program, visit https://careers.cypresscollege.edu/programs/psychiatric-technology/