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Central Michigan University: Students Help Address Mental Health Professional Shortage in Michigan Schools

Central Michigan University (CMU) is a key partner in the Michigan Earn, Learn, and Serve in Schools (Mi-ELSiS) program, administered by Michigan Health Council (MHC). Mi-ELSiS purposefully addresses the school mental health workforce shortage in Michigan. It is designed to increase the number of school psychologists, school social workers, and school counselors practicing in high-need schools across the state by supporting graduate students during their degree programs and, ultimately, improving access to care in high-need areas.


"I think this grant is a great opportunity for future school counselors as this can open up more doors for those who may need extra assistance," says Jana Higgins, a student placed in Fulton Schools of Middleton. "With the requirement of working in a high-needs school, I believe future counselors can learn more about what types of resources these schools have and what we as counselors can do for our students to ensure they have a positive impact in school."



How Mi-ELSiS Supports Students Becoming School Counselors


Mi-ELSiS participants receive a stipend for their participation in the program. This stipend offers an essential respite from some of the financial hardships students could experience while pursuing their school counseling degree. To be eligible, CMU students must complete an internship at a high-need school during their final year in the program and serve as a school counselor at a high-need school in Michigan for at least one year following their graduation. Additionally, the school site supervisors who train and oversee Mi-ELSiS participants during their internship receive a stipend in recognition of the hard work they do to develop these graduate students into professionals.


The American School Counselor Association recommends that schools have one school counselor for every 250 students. Michigan has the third-worst ratio in the US, with around one counselor per 638 students. By placing graduate trainees and newly hired school counselors in high-need schools, the Mi-ELSiS program helps increase student access to mental health services. It also helps provide Michigan schools with a workable solution to the school counselor deficit.



Coursework, Along With Experience, Makes a Difference


Students in CMU’s School Counseling master’s program complete 60 credits of counseling courses. This includes courses fundamental to the program, like Child and Adolescent Counseling and Postsecondary Planning, but also courses and training on a wide variety of school counseling-related topics, such as crisis and trauma work, collaboration with administrators and stakeholders, and addiction counseling. The School Counseling master’s program also requires graduate students to complete a 600-hour internship working with K-12 students.


The breadth of coursework ensures that school counseling interns are knowledgeable about a range of tools and practices so that each K-12 student has their needs met.



Central Michigan University and Mi-ELSiS’ Future


Michigan Health Council is proud to partner with Central Michigan University to grow the school counselor workforce in Michigan over the next several years. When asked about the future, Dr. Ellen Armbruster, CMU’s School Counseling Program Coordinator, noted, “Access to school counselors is a benefit that cannot be overstated and will have a far-reaching impact for the children and adolescents of Michigan.”


Funding for Mi-ELSiS comes from a federal grant awarded by the US Department of Education to the Michigan Department of Education.



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