Each May, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania observes Mental Health Awareness Month. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) recognizes the significance of providing support to students and families through certified mental health professionals.

PHEAA is administering the Pennsylvania Mental Health Education Learning Program in Schools (PA HELPS), which was authorized under Act 55 of 2022 as the School-based Mental Health Internship Grant Program. PA HELPS provides funding to support school-based mental health professionals who must complete an internship before receiving their credentials.

“Our students are our future and it is critical that we are giving them the foundation they need to succeed,” said Senator Wayne Fontana, Chairman of the PHEAA Board of Directors. “That means ensuring that they have access to mental health specialists whenever they need them. We are currently experiencing a shortage of those professionals in our schools. It is our sincere hope that PA HELPS will encourage growth in that area.”

To be eligible for PA HELPS, an intern must be a Pennsylvania resident enrolled in an educational specialist preparation program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) that leads to an education specialist certification as a school nurse, school psychologist, school counselor, or school social worker. Recipients must be accepted to an internship at a Local Education Agency (LEA) in Pennsylvania and must commit to working at an LEA in Pennsylvania for a minimum of 3 years following completion of their educational specialist degree. The program application deadline for LEAs is May 31, 2023.

“The PA HELPS Program received a $5 million appropriation from the Commonwealth, demonstrating just how important this need is for more mental health specialists in our schools,” said James Steeley, PHEAA President & CEO. “Our public service mission is to help students afford higher education and this program financially supports students in the mental health fields in achieving their internship hours, which are often unpaid, and becoming fully licensed. PA HELPS enables us to assist both postsecondary and secondary students at the same time, while meeting their completely different needs. With the May 31 deadline fast approaching, we hope to see more LEAs apply for the program.”

For more information on PA HELPS, please visit pheaa.org/PAHELPS.

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