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  • Jon Dusza, News Editor

Canisius offering scholarship towards mental health education

By Jon Dusza

The Patrick Lee Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to mental health education, announced this month that they would be offering $300,000 worth of scholarships to Canisius students.

The scholarships will be offered to Canisius graduate students going for a degree in mental health counseling who live in the Buffalo area. The goal of the scholarships is to address the issue of the lack of mental health professionals in the Western New York area.

The Griffin spoke to two members of the Lee Foundation — Christopher Allaire and Jane Mogavero — about the scholarship program and the mental health professional scene in Western New York in general.

The Patrick Lee Foundation was founded by, unsurprisingly, Patrick Lee. Lee grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated from Saint Louis University, a Jesuit college, before moving to Buffalo. Lee’s son struggled with mental health issues, being diagnosed with schizophrenia, so Lee founded his foundation in an effort to improve the condition of Buffalo’s mental health scene.

Lee, who was given a scholarship after his father died in World War II, wanted to pay the gift of education he received forward, and asks that “someday his scholars will find a way to give back, as well.”

Through the scholarship, students can receive up to $20,000 over the course of the 60 credit hours that it takes to complete Canisius’s mental health counseling program. The students have to be from one of the eight Western New York counties and intend to stay in the area for at least five years.

The reason for that caveat is that Western New York has, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration, a shortage in mental health care availability. Mogavero said that because of that, “One of the main priorities when we talk about funding and mental health is to build that [mental health] workforce.” She continued, “Mental health workers don’t get paid what they deserve and should get … and they often have [student loan] debt. And so, with the scholarship and working with Canisius, while we can’t solve all the problems, we’re going to remove some of the debt, so that they have one less thing to deal with.”

Allaire spoke about the problem in a post-COVID world. He said, “I think that during COVID, what happened was [that] we were already short workers, but then so many more people are now seeking services, and that’s made the problem even worse. … It’s become really like a crisis.”

“By focusing and being really concentrated in Western New York,” Mogavero said, “we think we can have a much stronger impact than spreading our money out across a much wider footprint.”

Still, Mogavero said, “Our grants feel local — and they are — but I think we’re always looking at bigger opportunities to collaborate with others in trying to press our government to action.”

To sum it all up, Allaire said, “It’s local students who want to support, and we want to make a change here that people will be able to see. … Our whole foundation is so excited about the possibility of helping students with the scholarships.”

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