San Luis Obispo County

Students Making Mark in Cuesta College's Pysch Tech Program at ASH

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif - Cuesta College's Psych Tech Program held at Atascadero State Hospital, is ranking high when it comes to teaching students how to treat the mentally ill.

Students in the program are getting a full year of hands-on training, treating each other and even working part-time at the state hospital.

"There's a lot of character development because you get into new locations, environments, a lot of skills under a lot of pressure," said Timothy Fountain, a former student.

Students aren't just in the classroom; they get experience working with professionals in other clinical facilities all over the county. "Every day is different which is nice," said Brian Bertaccini, a student.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics California employs the most psych techs in the country.

"Not only can they do the basic nursing care, but they also have this expertise in behavior management," said Karen Boriack, the programs director.

Students are also trained for high-risk situations because attacks can be frequent at mental hospitals. They happen every month at ASH.

"They teach you how to keep your distance but also how to build rapport and be friendly, how to approach situations in a calm manner," said Fountain.

Fifty to 75 percent of the students go to work at ASH six to nine months after graduation.

After students graduate they take a state board exam. The class of 2013 had a pass rate of 92 percent, one of the highest in the state.

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