To meet West Virginia’s growing demand for mental health and addiction professionals, West Virginia University will launch a new undergraduate major in mental health and addiction studies for the 2021-2022 academic year. The program, housed in the College of Education and Human Services, is an expansion of the minor in addiction studies that began enrolling students in the fall of 2018.
“Today’s students are hungry for opportunities to serve their communities through professions that solve society’s greatest challenges,” said Jessica Troilo, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Education and Human Services. “The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the need for mental health and addiction professionals, and we believe that this major will help fulfill the shortage of these professionals in our state.”
The mental health and addiction studies major, the first of its kind in West Virginia and one of just a few undergraduate programs in the field nationwide, takes an in-depth focus on addiction treatment and recovery while providing students with a broad knowledge base in mental health prevention, intervention, and community impacts. Additionally, students in the program will take elective courses in diversity, aging, disabilities and wellness.
Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mental health and addiction studies will be qualified for entry-level occupations in addiction, mental health, and family support services, as well as graduate programs in fields such as counseling, social work, and public health.
Clinical Assistant Professor Frankie Tack, a former addiction counselor who designed the addiction studies minor, will serve as the program coordinator for the new undergraduate degree.
According to Tack, WVU student enrollment in the addiction studies minor has sharply increased since 2018, and many students expressed interest in learning opportunities beyond the minor’s five courses.
“Since the advent of the addiction studies minor, students have been asking us for a full major so they can put their entire academic focus on preparing to serve these vulnerable populations,” Tack said. “Our students see the needs in West Virginia and beyond and want to prepare to serve their communities We are excited to now offer that opportunity with the bachelor’s in mental health and addiction studies.”
Kyleigh Dawson, a senior exercise physiology major from New Brighton, Pennsylvania, found her passion for the addiction field after adding the minor during her freshman year. Though Dawson’s initial goal was to pursue a career as a physical therapist, she’s now planning to further her education in nursing school with the hopes of working in a treatment facility for individuals with substance use disorders.
“The addiction studies courses were the best courses I took at WVU,” Dawson said. “The professors are all so passionate about the field, and the courses opened my eyes to the stigma surrounding addiction.”
The mental health and addiction studies major was approved at the April WVU Board of Governors meeting. Interested students can enroll in the major beginning in the fall 2021 semester.
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