Master in counseling program at ’Berg gets $1.3M grant

Heidelberg University’s master of arts in counseling program recently received a grant to help train counselors to fill gaps and unmet needs.

The program received the Project KITE grant – $1.3 million over four years – to target the rural counties of Erie, Huron, Seneca and Sandusky and three cities, Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus, to combat health professional shortage areas.

“Earning this grant has been very rewarding,” Marjorie Shavers, the program’s director at Heidelberg, said. “This will help give our students a huge financial relief during their internships and will continue to help grow the program.”

Shavers said the funding the program will receive will open up opportunities for students. It also speaks to the deficit in mental health providers in the area.

Through the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training grant, graduate counseling students in their final internship would be eligible to receive a $10,000 scholarship during their field experience/internship. Students would work in interdisciplinary behavioral health care teams in which they would focus on providing trauma-informed care and substance abuse mental health services in the rural and underserved areas throughout northwest Ohio.

Certain geographic areas historically have had less access to behavioral health care, stated Jo-Ann Lipford Sanders, dean of the School of Education and Counseling at Heidelberg, in a release provided by the university.

“There’s a real serious shortage of both medical and behavioral healthcare in these areas for myriad reasons,” Lipford Sanders said in the release, noting that by 2025, projections indicate “an additional shortage among many health-care providers, specifically psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors and school counselors.”

Some 78 scholarships are to be available over the four-year life of the grant.

The grant, according to Shavers, also is to enhance the richness of the program.

The program — with concentrations and licensing in clinical counseling and school counseling — has been at Heidelberg since 1989 and has been nationally accredited.

In addition to the scholarship, Heidelberg is to use the funding to recruit men and minorities into the program, develop an interdisciplinary behavioral health care conference working with consultants from Ohio State University, the University of Michigan and Arizona State University, and ongoing education for faculty and clinical supervisors.

Shavers said when preparing to apply for a grant, everyone including the students are involved in the process.

“There is nothing the students aren’t aware of,” she said. “They are very hands-on and are confident and proud of their program.”

The students also are involved with many events on campus, including the annual wellness fair, suicide and human trafficking awareness and film screenings.

Shavers said the program has a theme of family, and when students graduate and go off to their first job, they keep in touch with the students and help those who have been unable to make a job match.

“That is what makes our program a little unique,” she said.

This is the second grant the graduate counseling program has received from Health Resources & Services Administration as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program earned a $214,286 grant last fall to assist in the training of counselors dealing with at-risk children.

Heidelberg’s grant partners are the Sandusky City Schools, Mercy Health, the Neighborhood Health Association of Toledo and the Erie County Health Department.

Lipford Sanders also said the program has received a three-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for the purpose of establishing a center to help reduce sexual violence on campuses.