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Walsh University Lands Grant to Provide Health Services to Underserved Communities

Walsh University Campus looking east
Tim Rudell
Walsh University's new program, COPE, will focus on providing behavioral and mental health services to the underserved in Northeast Ohio.

A new program from Walsh University will provide behavioral and mental health services to underserved populations in Northeast Ohio, including immigrants, veterans and the homeless. The program is funded by a $1.9 million federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The four-year grant aims to have students seeking master’s degrees in occupational therapy and counseling and human development engage with the community through a program called COPE. Grant project codirector Tiffany Peets says the program will teach students across disciplines how to work together.

“So that collaboration could really equate to increased client care but also skills to our students, because they will need to know how to interact with other professionals,” Peets said.

Co-director Michele Tilstra says the grant includes financial stipends for students that she hopes will diversify the student population.

“So, it kind of opens a lot of doors for students that may not have been able to consider this program, the counseling program, or Walsh’s OT program in the past, so it opens those doors as well,” she said.

Peets and Tilstra are partnering with various community organizations to reach these populations and hope to have students working with them by next spring.

Tilstra says the goal of the program is twofold.

Tilstra: the goals of the program

“Occupational therapists and counseling students being trained while in they’re in school of how to collaborate, how we can work really well together, and then being able to take that out into clinical rotations and use those skills to work with clients in underserved areas,” she said.

Tilstra and Peets hope to partner with more community organizations as the program grows.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media. A Northeast Ohio native and lifelong listener of public radio, Abigail started in public radio as a news intern at WKSU. She graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Kent State University.