Western Oregon University receives $1 million grant to support rehabilitation and mental health counseling

Western Oregon University’s (WOU) Regional Resource Center on Deafness (RRCD) has received a $1 million grant from the federal Rehabilitation Service Administration to support its Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling (RMHC) Program.

The grant begins immediately and runs through Sept. 30, 2024. RRCD will receive $200,000 annually for the grant, which supports RMHC students with their tuition, training and professional development. Only 30 organizations, nationally, received an award through this grant.

Person with blonde hair standing and smiling in front of a wooden wall and decorative lights
Denise Thew Hackett, PhD, MSCI, CRC

“WOU has offered a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling since 1974. As such, its program, which is CACREP-accredited, enjoys a national reputation as a quality program with high student outcomes,” said Dr. Denise Thew Hackett, associate professor of Deaf Studies and Professional Studies, who is the RMHC program coordinator and principal investigator for the grant. “The RMHC program expanded by redesigning the Deaf specialty curriculum from face-to-face to the online/hybrid format what will have a new cohort beginning January 2020.”

Thew Hackett and Chad Ludwig, RRCD director, are both deaf. They

Person smiling, wearing a black shirt, standing in front of a white wall
Chad A. Ludwig, MSW, ADAC, DI

are two of the leaders in WOU’s programs to narrow the gap of vocational rehabilitation and mental health counselors nationwide. The RMHC’s rehabilitation counselor with deaf track is one of only two in the country, and the RMHC program overall is one of only four in the Pacific Northwest. An online version of the rehabilitation counselor with deaf track will expand in winter 2020 to include an online/hybrid option that is delivered in American Sign Language, which will help address a significant national shortage of counselors with this specialty.

“The Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program was established on the belief that individuals with disabilities have the right to lead fulfilling, independent, and productive lives,” said Thew Hackett. “Thoroughly trained and competent rehabilitation professionals play an essential role in the realization of this right. This grant will help the RMHC achieve its mission.” RMHC’s mission is to prepare rehabilitation professionals who are skilled in advocating for and with persons who are deaf or have disabilities, and develop competent counselors knowledgeable of innovative and culturally sensitive rehabilitation practices and policies.”

RRCD is in WOU’s College of Education and has been supporting students in fields like interpreter training, deaf and hard of hearing education, and rehabilitation counseling for more than 50 years. For more information about the RMHC, please visit wou.edu/rrcd/rmhc.

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