For Immediate Release: 4/11/2023


Funding Will Increase Retention and Completion Rates of Underrepresented Undergraduate and Graduate Students in the Mental Health Field 

Program Aims to Expand and Diversify the Mental Health Professionals Pipeline

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the first recipients of the $4 million scholarship program to support underrepresented students entering or enrolled in mental health degree programs at the State University of New York and the City University of New York. The program aims to expand and diversify New York’s mental health workforce, which lacks sufficient representation of ethnic and racial minorities, especially in roles requiring advanced degrees or education-based certifications. The program is made possible by a federal grant awarded to the New York State Office of Mental Health.

“Through this partnership with SUNY and CUNY, we are taking a crucial step towards creating a public health care system that is truly reflective of the communities it serves,” Governor Hochul said. “Congratulations to the latest recipients whose dedication to this field will contribute to a healthier, more equitable future for all New Yorkers.”

The first recipients to be included are 11 students from six different SUNY campuses. The recipients are:

· Daisy Calvario Velasco, Sophomore Human Development Major, Binghamton University

· Celine DeCambre, Junior Psychology Major, University at Buffalo

· Caitly Dominici, Junior Psychology Major, Purchase College

· Michelle Dong, Sophomore Sociology Major, University at Albany

· Jeannette Guasio, 1st Year Masters Student in Social Work, Binghamton University

· Quinn Hendershot, 2nd Year Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, Binghamton University

· Theresa Meija, 2nd Year Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology, University at Albany

· Luiza Perez Ortiz, 1st Year Masters Student in Mental Health Counseling, University at Buffalo

· S. Rashid, 1st Year Masters Student in Psychology, University at Buffalo

· Ramsha Suhail, 1st Year Masters Student in Mental Health Counseling, SUNY Old Westbury

· Esther Turay, Junior Psychology Major, University at Buffalo

In August of 2022, Governor Hochul announced SUNY and CUNY each received $2 million from the New York State Office of Mental Health to support students underrepresented in mental health degree programs. Students selected for the scholarship program will be provided with a monetary scholarship as they progress through the program; mentorships with mental health professionals; enrichment programs consisting of presentations by mental health professionals and experts in the field; as well as internships in mental health facilities and/or with mental health providers.

The mental health field, like many medical professions, is experiencing significant shortages of clinicians, in particular clinicians who are multi-lingual, which continues to drive disparities in access, quality, and treatment for those who are not proficient in the English language. In addition to helping students acquire skills and credentials to build rewarding careers, this initiative works to reduce mental health disparities found in the state’s diverse communities by increasing the level of services delivered in a culturally relevant way.

New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “OMH is proud to have created this scholarship program for underrepresented students who are seeking to become mental health professionals. Our partnership with SUNY and CUNY will help us to create a more diverse mental health workforce that will allow us to better engage and work with underserved and marginalized communities across the State.”

State University of New York Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said, “At a time when mental health care is more important than ever, we must overcome the underrepresentation of students of color in mental health professions. SUNY is committed to diversifying the mental health field because a highly skilled, diverse workforce results in better patient care and health outcomes, and because these economically and emotionally rewarding careers must be welcoming to all. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership and the New York State Office of Mental Health for its support and partnership.”

Representative Paul Tonko said, “Our mental health workforce has long struggled with a lack of diversity, and that persistent problem too often leads to further lack of access and disproportionate care for communities of color. We must do all we can to diversify our nation’s educational programs and empower students to pursue this field. To that end, I’m excited to see this federal funding being delivered to students across our state. My congratulations to Michelle, Theresa, and all the students on their deserved scholarship, and my thanks for using their immense talent to serve and give back to our communities.”

Representative Adriano Espaillat said, “Congratulations to each of these young scholars as they enter the next phase of their academic journey and on becoming the first recipients of this vital scholarship fund aimed at increasing minority representation in the mental health field. They are shining beacons of hope and achievement, and I look forward to the difference they will make in the lives of others throughout our community.”

About The State University of New York

The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit