Allows Clinical Mental Health Counseling Students to Provide Critical Mental Health Services to Underserved Populations Across WNY
Medaille College’s Department of Counseling & Clinical Psychology has received over $1.2 million in renewed grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which will allow the College’s clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) students to continue to provide critical mental health services to medically underserved and at-risk populations within Buffalo, Rochester and the surrounding communities. The grant, which falls under HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program, will be dispersed over four years from August 2021 to August 2025.
The BHWET program aims to develop and expand the behavioral health workforce serving populations in medically underserved areas, focusing on the poorest metropolitan areas in the country. It places a special emphasis on establishing or expanding clinical internship programs within those areas of greatest need by providing $10,000 stipends to mental health counseling students who complete clinical hours serving community members within those areas. Stipend recipients must also agree to stay working within the identified areas of greatest need for a number of years after graduation.
“The needs in our community are greater than ever,” says Lynn Horne-Moyer, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of Medaille's Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology. “The pandemic has increased barriers to treatment for many of our most vulnerable patients, including children and adolescents, and those struggling with substance abuse.”
Medaille first applied for the BHWET grant in 2017, with the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, along with many of the surrounding rural areas, meeting the program’s demographic criteria. The College was originally selected to receive over $1.3 million over the course of four years, from August 2017 to August 2021, and this current grant renewal will provide and additional $1.2 million to be dispersed over the next four years, from August 2021 to August 2025. During the first four years of the grant, 92 CMHC students completed internships in medically underserved areas, and the renewal will allow 84 new students to receive the internship stipend between 2021 and 2025.
Under the guidelines set out by the grant, CMHC students have been completing their internships at a wide range of sites within Buffalo, Rochester and the surrounding areas, including BestSelf Behavioral Health, Genesee Community College and the Rochester Rehabilitation Center, to name a few. Four additional sites that Medaille aims to partner with for this project moving forward are Evergreen Health, Seneca Nation Health System, Mt. Hope Family Center and the Mental Health Demonstration Project in the Sodus Central School District. Across all internship locations, the clients serviced include immigrant populations and low-income families, and those struggling with intimate partner violence, substance use disorders or self-harm tendencies.
“The BHWET grant suggests to our students that this particular work within underserved populations is really the mission of what we do as clinicians,” says Clinical Assistant Professor of Mental Health Counseling and Project Director of Medaille’s BHWET Program Marguerite M. McCarty, Ed.D., LMHC. “The internship stipends provide a two-fold benefit. They allow our students to spend more time focusing on their studies and training without having to take on additional jobs, and the community receives more accessible integrated healthcare.”
In addition to the direct student and client benefits, the BHWET grant helps fund interdisciplinary training and workshops for Medaille students, alumni, faculty, site supervisors and other WNY clinicians in areas like integrated healthcare and safety in behavioral health. The funds also cover student memberships to professional organizations like the New York Mental Health Counselors Association, allow students and faculty to attend conferences and have helped expand the College’s CMHC program curriculum.
In addition to the BHWET program leadership provided by Dr. Horne-Moyer and Dr. McCarty, Associate Professor of Mental Health Counseling Donald E. Nowak, Jr., Ph.D., CRC, serves as the education director under the grant. Clinical Assistant Professor of Mental Health Counseling Jenifer L. Willson, Ph.D., will also be working on programming and trainings that will be offered to Medaille students and faculty, as well as other local clinicians, covering topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion and clinical issues across a patient’s lifespan. Additionally, Clinical Assistant Professor Hennessey Lustica, Ph.D., LMHC, will be managing project data and assessment, along with running a spring semester seminar for stipend recipients called “Healing Little Hearts,” which will be focused on working with children and adolescents.
HRSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and its BHWET program was initiated to provide quality behavioral health services to communities in need.