PSU Receives $2.2 Million in Grants to Train Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselors Federal Funding Aimed at Helping Teens and At Risk Youth

PSU Receives $2.2 Million in Grants to Train Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselors Federal Funding Aimed at Helping Teens and At Risk Youth

PLYMOUTH, N.H.– Plymouth State University is taking the lead on combatting mental health and substance abuse problems throughout New Hampshire with the help of $2.2 million in federal grants. The three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) allows the University's professional counseling and school psychology program to recruit more students by offering them stipends during their internships, which increases the number of student interns providing mental health and substance abuse services to children, adolescents and transitional-age individuals.
“According to the state Department of Education, there is a critical need in New Hampshire for trained school counselors and school psychologists,” said Gary Goodnough, who chairs PSU’s Counselor Education and School Psychology program. “It’s very hard for our students to work without pay in their internships while at the same time paying tuition. These grants allow us to support them while they are attaining this important degree.”
This HRSA grant initiative was created in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting to provide better-trained school professionals to identify and treat troubled students. These grants will allow PSU to offer stipends to more than 100 master’s-level interns in school psychology, school counseling, and clinical mental health counseling who work between 600 and 1,200 hours. Currently, students in these programs receive no stipend during their internships, while paying up to $7,000 for school credits while having little free time for a part-time job.
“It’s a huge deal for me and my family,” said PSU graduate student Emily Russell, a school psychology intern at Lisbon High School. “I’m married, we have two little kids, and my husband is now the only one working–so to take a full year off to do this internship when there’s no way to work a part-time job, and still have to pay for classes, this is a fairly significant turnaround for us.”
“In addition to the financial support provided for student internships, this funding will be transformational; allowing us to deepen our relationships with schools, mental health organizations and other external partners in an effort to ensure that children, adolescents and young adults in New Hampshire have better access to critical mental health services,” said Gail Mears, Dean of PSU’s College of Education, Health and Human Services. “Being selected as grant recipients is a testimony to the excellence of our Counseling and School Psychology programs. We are deeply honored to be recognized in this way!”
The University will use the funding to focus on prevention and clinical intervention and treatment for at-risk youth and their families and put a special emphasis on meeting the needs of “transitional-age” persons ages 16 to 25 who are at risk for mental illness, substance abuse and suicide, and the least likely to seek continuous help. According to figures compiled in the past two years by the NH Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated one in five people ages five to 19 in New Hampshire has a diagnosable mental health disorder, while the same age group has some of the highest rates of alcohol and drug use in the country. This funding will facilitate inter-professional collaboration with a local primary care health center and school, community mental health centers, and law enforcement with the primary goal of nurturing safe communities. The grant writer, PSU Associate Professor of Counselor Education and School Psychology Cindy Waltman, said the funding would positively transform students’ lives, and that will be reflected in New Hampshire’s schools.
“We want to make a difference in New Hampshire,” Waltman said. “School districts have a real need for school psychologists and counselors, but there aren’t enough qualified candidates.”
The $2.2 million awarded to PSU are among the largest social sciences grants ever awarded to a USNH school; Goodnough believes PSU will see an influx of students who aspire to be school psychologists and counselors, but could not afford the program without a stipend.
“We know that mental health and substance abuse issues can create problems anywhere, even New Hampshire,” said Goodnough. “It’s been hard for our students to endure the financial hardship to become trained counselors and school psychologists, so this grant is very exciting.”