Niagara University has received several grants that will support students and enhance programs across academic disciplines.

The university’s clinical mental health counseling program received a grant from the Patrick P. Lee Foundation to support students preparing for careers in this critical field.

The funding will be used to establish up to five scholarships for full-time students in the program, which is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Scholarship recipients will receive up to $10,000 per year for the three-year program, for a total award of $30,000.

“These scholarships will have a profound impact on our students and the communities they serve,” said Dr. Jennifer Beebe, associate professor and coordinator of the clinical mental health counseling program. “Mental health issues continue to rise, and access to quality counseling services is more critical than ever. These scholarships not only alleviate financial burdens for deserving students, but also ensure that talented individuals are empowered to pursue their passion for mental health counseling without financial constraints. By supporting students in our program, these scholarships ultimately strengthen our ability to address the growing mental health needs in our society, fostering healthier and more resilient communities.”

“Ensuring our community members are supported by a strong, well-trained mental health workforce is a top priority of the Lee Foundation,” said Jane Mogavero, executive director of the Patrick P. Lee Foundation. “Since 2016, we have awarded $2.1 million in scholarships to remove financial barriers for students pursuing degrees in psychiatry, psychology, psychiatric mental health nursing, social work, and counseling. With a proven track record of producing skilled mental health professionals, Niagara University is an ideal partner for our scholarship program. And, since these students are committed to remaining in Western New York after graduation, we are ensuring our local community agencies have access to talented and dedicated staff.”

The university also received two $100,000 grants from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.

The first will support the continuing work of its College of Nursing to foster nurse resilience, effectively bridge the transition from student to healthcare professional, address a critical shortage in the nursing workforce, increase awareness of health inequities, and develop effective approaches to care in complex environments across Western New York, with an emphasis on Niagara County.

This is the third consecutive year the college has received support from the organization for its “Practice Innovations to Support a Resilient, Inclusive & Equitable Nurse Workforce” initiative. The renewed funding will be used to expand the academic preparation of students and improve the quality of care across the lifespan, particularly for the most complex and vulnerable patients in healthcare settings, by the increased use of virtual reality, telemedicine training, and other patient-care simulation educational experiences and game-training in its state-of-the-art Nursing Simulation Center and skills lab. These on-campus clinical experiences will enable students to develop sound critical thinking and clinical judgment skills.

The grant will also support the work of the college’s resilience and resource officer, who will build resilience for student and novice nurses working in complex and stressful healthcare settings and upskill nurse leaders who interact with these vulnerable clinicians to decrease turnover and departure from the nursing profession while improving personal wellness, retention, and job satisfaction.

Professional development opportunities will also be offered to nursing students, recent graduates, and other healthcare workers, particularly those early in their career and/or those in leadership positions.

The project builds upon the work started in 2022 with funding from the Cabrini Foundation to enhance technology in the College of Nursing’s simulation and skills labs, develop expanded certifications to create new pathways to the nursing and allied health professions, and facilitate high-impact training for community health instructors.

The second Cabrini Foundation grant will enable Niagara University to expand its specialized training in the area of disabilities to the New York State Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives. The training will increase disability knowledge and awareness among the state’s probation officers, improving probationer’s utilization of community resources and potentially reducing recidivism among probation clients with complex needs. This is the third year the Cabrini Foundation has funded this initiative, which has provided customized training for the probation departments in both Niagara and Erie counties.

NU FRDAT will bring the program to the probation departments in New York state’s 55 counties and in the five boroughs of New York City through a Train the Trainer and an E-Learning series with the intention to build it into the NYS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives new hire training. The training will educate probation officers on recognizing disability indicators/ characteristics; equip them with the knowledge needed to identify specific disabilities; and provide guidance on appropriate responses, such as utilizing community resources and support services.

This new program will expand NU FRDAT’s current offerings, which include customized training to law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, and 911 telecommunicators, as well as training for emergency management personnel, both on site and in virtual formats. It was created in cooperation with all major first responder associations, councils and state offices, and designed to give first responders the knowledge necessary to best serve and respond to individuals with disabilities. In 2020, NU FRDAT was invited to work with CSE1 and the Family Justice Center to develop and provide training for disability organizations, domestic violence agencies, and legal and law enforcement entities in Western New York to help them better assist people diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities who have experienced domestic violence.