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CWRU earns grant to expand access to mental health support

New fund will help students pay for mental health care

In recent years, there has been a growing understanding of the critical role mental health plays in overall health—leading to an increased usage of mental health care treatment such as individual therapy, group counseling, medication and more. 

To help support Case Western Reserve students in accessing the mental health care they need, University Health & Counseling Services applied for and earned an 18-month grant from the Ohio Department of Education. The grant will expand the Outreach, Assessment, Resources and Response (OARR) team and also launch a new mental health care fund, through which students with financial need can request monetary support for out-of-pocket costs related to mental health services—from therapy copays to medications.

“We know that many students want—and need—mental health support, but financial costs can be a huge barrier,” said Naomi Drakeford, the university’s director of clinical counseling services, equity and inclusion. “This fund will help remove that barrier and ensure our students get the care they deserve.”

Undergraduate, graduate and professional students with financial need can apply through MyHealthConnect for up to $500 per semester. These funds must be used for financial costs associated with receiving mental health care, including psychiatric medication or psychological testing and assessment. Expenses may include individual or group counseling, inpatient or residential treatment, transportation costs, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

The Student Mental Health Fund builds on prior initiatives such as the Student Health Emergency Fund, which was created in 2022 to assist students and postdocs with financial hardships due to urgent health needs.

“We often see two barriers to students seeking care: time and money,” said Sara Lee, the university’s chief health officer and assistant vice president for University Health & Counseling Services. “We are grateful the state has allocated this funding to universities, as it allows us to empower our students to address their mental health through appropriate, effective care when and how they need support.”

The grant also will support broadening access to appropriate care through expansion of the OARR crisis co-response team. Launched last year through a partnership through the Division of Public Safety and University Health & Counseling Services, the OARR team pairs a licensed mental health clinician with a Case Western Reserve police officer—both of whom are trained in crisis intervention. When called for a mental health crisis, this team assesses and, ideally, stabilizes the situation before providing short-term counseling, care management and appropriate follow-up resources.

The team is composed of one clinician and one police officer; with this funding, the team will gain additional training and expand to include another mental health clinician and a team coordinator.

“We’ve received incredibly positive feedback on the OARR program’s effectiveness in providing holistic support and reducing stressors for people experiencing mental health crises,” said Hillary Jones, director of acute mental health care, crisis response and care management. “By expanding this program, we’re not only ensuring our students in crisis get respectful, trauma-informed responses in the moment but also get access to the resources they need for follow-up care.”

Though the state grant supporting these initiatives ends in June 2025, Lee is hopeful they will continue if beneficial for students.

“Initiatives like this promote our students’ development and resilience,” Lee said, “and all students benefit from a university and academic environment with this support.”

To apply for the Student Mental Health Fund:

  1. Visit
  2. Select “Send or Read a Secure Message.” 
  3. Select “New Message.”
  4. Choose “ I want to submit an application for the Student Mental Health Fund.”
  5. Complete the application.

Note: Students will need to submit documentation (e.g., a receipt, bill, or explanation of benefits that clearly indicates how the funding will be used).

To learn more about the OARR program, visit the Division of Public Safety website