Students in Waynesburg University counseling program to receive stipend from HRSA grant

Waynesburg University’s Graduate Counseling and Professional Studies program recently received a grant from the Health Resources Services Administration. 

The grant was received before the start of the 2021 fall semester, and according to Dr. James Hepburn, program director of the Master of Arts in Counseling, graduate students who are awarded the grant will receive a $10,000 stipend as they work in an internship.

“The internship itself requires students to work 20 hours a week for both the fall and the spring semester, plus they have to take their classes. Most of our students are actually working as well, and they have families, so to work 20 hours is really a burden,” Hepburn said. “We’re hoping that by providing these funds for students they would be able to act on their work and use those funds for themselves and their families.”

Hepburn said there are currently 12 students receiving the stipend, and he expects enrollment to increase because of the resources that the grant provides. He also said those internships are in areas that need the care that the students are able to provide.

“The focus of the grant is to provide resources for students to be able to complete internships in underserved or high need areas in agencies that provide a team-based treatment in which there’s counselors and other mental health professionals like psychiatry, social work and even primary care physicians and so on,” he said.

According to a Waynesburg University press release, the total grant amount is $1,069,240 over four years, and Waynesburg’s graduate counseling program will receive $198,485 for the 2021-22 school year. Additionally, the grant is part of HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) program for professionals. 

According to HRSA’s website, the BHWET program “aims to increase the supply of behavioral health professionals while also improving distribution of a quality behavioral health workforce and thereby increasing access to behavioral health services.”

Hepburn said various faculty members were involved with securing the grant, including Dr. Kelly McNichols, an assistant professor of counseling and Waynesburg University’s coordinator of the grant.

“I contributed to the creation of the grant narrative. I worked with the team to secure letters of commitment from stakeholders, conducted a literature review to support our intended purpose and helped to develop a vision for how the grant would support the growing needs of counselors in training as well as the behavioral health workforce,” McNichols said in an email.

Hepburn also credited the administration with aiding the counseling program in receiving the grant.

According to McNichols, the grant increases the quality of the education that the graduate counseling program can provide. She said students have been appreciative of the grant.

Many students have expressed their deep gratitude for this opportunity. BHWET students have openly discussed how involvement in the BHWET program will help support their career aspirations as professional counselors,” she said. “BHWET students have demonstrated a passion for working with marginalized populations; thereby fulfilling their vocational calling to service learning and advocacy.”

Hepburn said the program is excited about the grant, and the money will also help the program pursue other opportunities for students.

“We’re excited about it. It will also provide opportunities for training,” he said. “We’re going to have an annual conference that we are going to do in the early spring, and I think that’s going to increase our connections within the community, especially in the mental health field.”