Loyola’s School Psychology Program Receives $4.5 Million Mental Health Grant

The grant money will mainly go to financially supporting Loyola’s graduate students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Loyola’s School Psychology Program, a three year graduate program in the School of Education, received a $4.5 million grant awarded by the United States Department of Education Dec. 22. 

The grant money will mainly go to financially supporting Loyola’s graduate students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, according to Professor and Associate Dean of Research in the School of Education Dr. Pam Fenning. Fenning said the grant will open opportunities for these students to enter the mental health career field without the barrier of debt.

Fenning and Assistant Professor Ashley Mayworm were the two main authors of the grant, which they began writing in early October. The two said they also received help from professors within the School Psychology Program and their partnerships. 

The main objectives and goals for the grant money are based around both the School Psychology Program itself and the partnership the school has with K-12 grade schools in Cicero Elementary District 99, Berwyn Elementary District 98 and Morton High School District 201, according to Fenning. 

The students in the graduate program work at these K-12 schools in order to work with the students and provide them with mental health professionals to guide them through their struggles in school, home life, or any other issues they may be facing, according to Mayworm. 

“We’re very intentionally trying to recruit students who are bilingual and bicultural into our school psychology graduate program and part of that is by providing them tuition remission and other funding support to pay for their graduate training,” Mayworm said. 

The students admitted to the program beginning in the fall would have their entire tuition covered, along with benefits given during their time in the program, according to Fenning. Some of the benefits include a small stipend and coverage of some fees and opportunities for the fellows starting in 2023 to attend a national conference in their second year, Fenning said. 

The Puentes Fellows, who will be the class beginning in Fall 2023, will also have exposure to additional training through professional development like our annual summer institutes, and additional mentorship while in the program, according to Fenning. 

Along with financial benefits, the grant will support the school districts the School Psychology Program is partnering with to improve their culturally responsive mental health practices, according to Mayworm and Fenning. 

With the grant money, the hope is to allow Loyola’s program to provide professional development opportunities for the teachers and staff already working in the school districts, Maywood said. She also said it will implement consultation support for students in order to improve the existing mental health practices in the schools, according to Mayworm. 

Through the work the program does with elementary and high schools, the graduate students are able to work with and understand the severity of mental health issues that occur in youth, especially bicultural groups, according to Fenning. 

“We’re seeing a drastic mental health crisis happening right now to bilingual and bicultural students who have even higher disparate rates of access of mental health services,” Fenning said. 

In 2019, 53% of young black adults struggling with anxiety or depression did not receive treatment for it, compared to 36% of white young adults, according to a poll taken by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Similarly, the American Psychiatric Foundation found that bilingual patients are evaluated differently when interviewed in English as opposed to Spanish and that Hispanics are more frequently undertreated. 

Hispanic adolescents were found to be half as likely than white adolescents to use antidepressants and half as likely as white children to use stimulants to treat disorders like ADHD or ADD, according to the American Psychiatric Foundation. 

The limited amount of funding given to school’s is heavily impacting their inability to provide mental health services to students, according to Pew Research Center

Their third main objective is to help expose high school students who live in the Cicero community to careers in mental health fields through the School Psychology program’s collaboration with the high school workforce development program, Youth Crossroads

By incorporating and involving the School Psychology Program’s students in these districts, the K-12 students will have access to mental health resources and professionals who can help them, and the students in the graduate program can learn how to help students who are dealing with struggles in their home or school lives, according to Mayworm. It will also give access to youth who live in the district communities to enter mental health fields, Mayworm told The Phoenix. 

After the students graduate with their masters in psychology from the program, they will be able to work full-time as mental health professionals in the school district, which is a long term goal for the program, according to Fenning. 

Featured image by Z Miller

Anna Waldron

Anna Waldron