The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will award Azusa Pacific University a $1.94 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This grant will enhance APU’s Community Counseling Center (CCC) by improving training and resources for child trauma services and investing in partnerships with numerous community organizations. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, these opportunities are especially timely, and this grant will benefit an increasing number of community members in need of services.

According to Sally Mansour, M.S., LMFT, director of the CCC and administrator for the Department of Graduate Psychology, “This grant enables our students to receive official training in evidence-based practices. Through these practices, student therapists will be able to more effectively serve patients in the local community.”

Through this grant, the CCC will offer improved training for APU student therapists, based upon trauma-informed, evidence-based models. These treatment models approach mental health through the lense of research-based therapeutic practices targeted to specific age groups, cultural settings, and populations. This enhanced curriculum will allow student therapists to effectively assess, prevent, and treat children, adolescents, and families who have experienced trauma. With this new model, a comprehensive data tracking system will also be developed to augment the training.

The increased funding allows for renewed contracts with Azusa, Glendora, and Duarte Unified School Districts, providing continued school, family, and clinic-based mental health services to students and families in the area. In addition, the CCC will host two annual community presentations on topics such as trauma recognition, coping, resilience, self care, and local mental health resources and two outreach events with local providers, youth, and families. To implement the grant, the CCC will also partner with the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services and Department of Mental Health, the Azusa Police Department, the YWCA of Greater San Gabriel Valley, the City of Hope, the City of Azusa's All in for Azusa initiative, and the Health Consortium of San Gabriel Valley.

These presentations and events promote an active network of resources for mental health providers in the area. Mansour notes the importance of having an extensive range of interconnected resources and services. “Anybody in the child’s circle, whether it's the family or school, will be impacted by this grant. We not only offer services, but also outreach, stigma reduction, presentations, community events, informational flyers—anything that will help address child and family trauma.”

The grant will enable the CCC to hire a full-time project coordinator, allowing for more effective service to the community as both a clinician training site and a go-to local mental health provider in the San Gabriel Valley. “I look at the CCC as serving a dual purpose vision: We are both a student training site and a go-to mental health provider. We are advancing wellbeing through compassionate service and trusted leadership. Adding a full time team member will raise the bar for both of these areas, improving the quality of each side of the program,” said Mansour.

Those responsible for securing the grant, include members of the CCC, APU’s Office of Research and Grants, Marta Cenac-Mehedinti, M.Sc., Josephine Wong, MBA, CRA, and Donald Isaak, Ph.D. Through the combined efforts of all involved, Mansour is confident that these new programs will make a difference in the lives of students, faculty, and families at APU and in the community:

“Through this grant, the CCC will be highlighted as an avenue for eliminating barriers and creating opportunities for our students and the neighboring communities we serve,” said Mansor.