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October 19, 2021

Anna Maria granted $2M to increase financial access to social work and counseling programs

Photo | Anna Maria College John Pratico, professor and director of Anna Maria's psychology program

Anna Maria College of Paxton was awarded a $1.92-million grant by the Health Resources and Services Administration in June, which will go toward the school's social work and mental health programs, according to program directors John Pratico and Lenore Rust.

The funding will be allotted in segments of $480,000 over four years to financially support graduate students in the counseling psychology or social work programs who are working unpaid internships as they pursue professional licensure and employment. 

The program, which is called Internships Need: Trainings, Experientials, Resources, Networks, will support 29 students a year who will each receive a $10,000 stipend.

Offering a stipend will allow students with other financial obligations to have an equal chance at achieving the number of hours required for a degree, said Pratico, who is both a professor and the director of Anna Maria’s psychology program.

Cost and time are two of the largest barriers for students aiming to get their masters in social work or mental health counseling, said Pratico.

“There’s an embedded amount of privilege in all this,” he said.

The school applied for the grant in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic when mental health challenges and substance abuse were on the rise in Central Massachusetts. 

Jobs for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are predicted to grow 23%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which both Pratico and Rust said is another push factor for the school to encourage as many graduate students as possible.

As part of the annual Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program, HRSA, which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, distributed nearly $3 million in grants across eight Massachusetts institutions. Some of the highest awardees included William James College in Newton, Boston Medical Center, and Regis College in Weston. 

Anna Maria was the only Central Massachusetts institution to be awarded the grant. 

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