New Grant Supports Students Studying Mental Health Counseling

March 23, 2023
Mental Health Counseling

Buffalo, NY – Canisius University is the recipient of a $150,000 grant from the Patrick P. Lee Foundation to address the local mental health workforce shortage.  The grant will provide scholarships to students pursuing graduate-level degrees in clinical mental health counseling and social work.  Canisius is one of two local higher education institutions selected to receive the grant because of its “proven track record of producing well-trained professionals who staff the mental health departments of hospitals, human service agencies and medical clinics in Western New York,” according to an announcement from the Foundation.   

Due to a growing national deficit of mental health practitioners, over 6 million New Yorkers live in a mental health professional shortage area as designated by the Health Resources and Service Agency (HRSA). Social workers and counselors, which constitute a significant segment of the mental health workforce, face challenges related to the cost of their master’s level education and their projected salaries in the sector. Nationally, the average graduate student loan debt accrued by these professionals is over $49,000. In May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for social workers was $50,390. This imbalance is a contributing factor to high turnover in the field and limits interest in mental health related professions altogether.

To address the financial barriers of students pursuing a master’s degree in mental health, the Lee Foundation is providing five students in Canisius University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program (CMHC) $20,000 each, over the course of the two-year program.  The support will offset their educational expenses and limit their loan debt burden. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must demonstrate a commitment to working in Western New York after graduation.

Since 2016, the Foundation has awarded $2.1 million in mental health scholarships to students studying psychiatry, psychology, psychiatric-mental health nursing, social work and counseling. For more information about the Lee Foundations scholarships and other mental health grants, visit

Canisius University is one of 27 Jesuit colleges in the nation and the premier private college in Western New York. Canisius prepares leaders – intelligent, caring, faithful individuals – able to pursue and promote excellence in their professions, their communities and their service to humanity.