Niagara University has received a $375,000 grant from The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to address the growing mental health needs on campus and in the community. The funding will be used to establish accessible pathways and incremental credentials to improve the quality and availability of services offered by the current and future workforce in support of the region’s most vulnerable children and families.
A special focus of the grant funding will be on expanding the delivery of mental health services through telehealth. To that end, Niagara will develop three telehealth training labs on campus to provide training to community service providers.
The on-campus labs will be located in the university’s Nursing Simulation Center, in the Diagnostic and Observation Room in the Academic Complex, and in a computer lab, with the potential to establish a mobile lab. The training will also be embedded into the clinical curriculum of a number of academic programs, including mental health counseling, school counseling, school psychology, nursing, social work, public health, psychology, and pre-med, preparing Niagara’s students to incorporate telehealth competencies into their chosen fields.
Graduate credit-bearing courses leading to advanced certificates or micro-credentials in areas such as clinical mental health, applied behavior analysis, interaction therapy, and birth-2 special education will be offered to enhance the skillset of providers and meet identified gaps.
In addition, to better serve the mental health needs of its students, the university will establish a satellite clinic location on campus to provide privacy for students to access Niagara University’s Counseling Services’ telehealth options, and will launch TAO (Therapy Assistance Online) Connect, a free, online self-help tool for students, staff, and faculty.
This work builds on the efforts started last year to increase awareness of mental and behavioral health issues on campus and in the community, supported by grant funding from the Cabrini Foundation and in partnership with Best Self Behavioral Health Inc. and the National Council for Mental Health First Aid. In November 2020, more than 300 people participated in workshops, trainings, and programs that were offered during a campuswide Mental Health Awareness Week, which was initiated to help raise awareness of the significant mental health needs on all college campuses and to address those of Niagara University’s students. The events, many of which were open to the public, offered a comprehensive, evidence-based, proactive approach to mental health for students, faculty, staff, multidisciplinary early childhood professionals, and others who wanted to learn more about supporting those with mental health needs.
“Niagara University is proud to support the health and wellness of our students and the Western New York community with a grant from The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president. “Many of our students and other members of our community are experiencing an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression due to the impact of COVID-19, so the need for mental health support has never been greater. As a university committed to the physical, spiritual, and mental health of the whole person, we are grateful for this opportunity to train our faculty, students, and community partners in human services fields on telehealth, because this method of delivery for mental and behavioral health is critical during and post COVID-19.”
One of the offerings in November was a three-day mental health first aid training course. Niagara is one of only a handful of colleges and universities throughout the country providing this training. Fourteen individuals from the university and local community completed the training and are now nationally certified to train others in mental health first aid.