Over the past two years, the Master of Arts in Counseling Program (MAC) has received grants of more than $1.8 million to address some of society’s most urgent issues. Counselors-in-training are learning to serve at-risk children, help prevent violence against women and fill gaps in health professional shortage areas.
The grant funding opens doors for students to tackle emerging issues such as the deficit in mental health providers and services in the area.
Working with campus colleagues, MAC administrators Dr. Marjorie Shavers, program director, and Dr. Jo-Ann Lipford Sanders, dean of the School of Education and Counseling, are gratified that the program is worthy of the exposure that comes with the three grants received from national funding sources:
$1.3 million over four years through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s (HHS) Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program. The grant provides $10,000 scholarships to students during their internships as they focus on providing trauma-informed care and substance abuse mental health services in rural and underserved areas in northwest Ohio, including clients with issues related to the growing opioid epidemic.
$214,286 from HHS for stipends for students serving at-risk children in agencies or schools, to develop a speaker seminar series, to support students’ attendance at training and conferences and to recruit students of color and men into the program.
$299,972 from the U.S. Department of Justice for a campus safety program aimed at preventing violence against women. MAC is currently developing programs that will serve the campus population and create awareness.
In her final semester, Sandra Natole now knows for certain that she is destined to work with college students. Toward that goal, she balances her time with a full-time internship at Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services and a full-time job as a janitor.
“The work boots come off at 7 and then I go to my real (counseling) job,” Natole said. The stipend from the HHS grant allowed Sandra to drop down to part-time to focus on her counselor training and attend the All-Ohio Counselor Conference.
“Firelands has been a great window to see what’s out there,” she said. But it was an internship at Heidelberg’s Stoner Health, Counseling and Disabilities Center that helped cement her strong desire to work with college-aged clients.
“There’s a serious increase in the number of students who are using our services,” Natole said. “By word of mouth, people are using the counseling center as a preventative measure, rather than being reactive.” She has dealt with issues spanning the mental health spectrum, from anxiety and depression to trauma and crisis situations.
“I definitely want to work with this age group and if not, I may pursue my Ph.D. or teach.”
Classmate Kyle Anderson has his sights set on working with children and adolescents. Anderson puts in more than 50 hours a week as a case manager at Firelands, where he deals with numerous low-income clients, including some with severe disorders such as bipolar, schizophrenia and major depression. Many of the children are working through some form of trauma and the accompanying depressive symptoms. Sometimes, breaking through can be tricky.
With grant funds, Anderson was able to purchase games that help children learn impulse control, books and other resources aimed at treating children and adolescents. “I would not have been able to get these resources if not for the stipend,” Anderson said. “In the long run, they will help me become a better counselor. They really have helped.”
After graduation in May, Anderson will stay on at Firelands and continue his work at the Seneca County Jail, working with inmates on jail adjustment, alcohol and drug issues and coping skills.
Aimee Whitmer is anticipating her career as a school counselor after practicum and internship experiences at an elementary school in Findlay and a high school near Toledo. Currently on the staff at A Renewed Mind in Findlay, Whitmer used her grant scholarship to get needed experience working with at-risk youth.
“I was able to get training in trauma-informed care and then use it in the schools,” she explained. The funds were a godsend; she used some for her licensure, for counseling resources and for daily living expenses, taking the pressure off while completing unpaid internships.
“This allowed me to stay on track so I can get into the profession sooner,” Whitmer said. “I am so thankful.”