Partnership Brings New Mental Health Counselors to Burke

Burke, Episcopal Health Foundation and Seminary of the Southwest Partner to Improve Access to Mental Health Services in East Texas

(Lufkin, Texas – September 21, 2015)  A new partnership between Burke, the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) and Seminary of the Southwest in Austin is working to increase access to desperately needed mental health services for families in East Texas.

The Bishop Dena A. Harrison Fellows Program will place recent master’s graduates of the seminary’s counseling program at Burke while they complete the 3,000 hours of on-the-job, supervised, post-graduate training required to become fully-licensed counselors.

Burke is the largest provider of mental health services in East Texas. The partnership will allow fellows to earn a salary and benefits at no cost to Burke, clients or local tax payers.

“East Texas desperately needs new mental health professionals,” said Burke CEO Susan Rushing. “This innovative partnership provides a no-cost solution that helps our community immediately and will develop stronger ties between Burke and the schools that educate and train future counselors.”

“This program helps fulfill our mission, the seminary’s and Burke’s,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO. “It’s a great way to leverage our collective efforts to get help to Texans that need it.”

The EHF funding removes a significant obstacle that stands between recent graduates and rural communities that need mental health professionals.

Seminary counseling student Stephanie Knott felt a special calling to work with disadvantaged families. But the financial strain of an unpaid internship nearly prevented her from following her heart after graduation.

“Many counseling graduates struggle to get those 3,000 post-graduate internship hours,” Knott said. “Some interns may not get paid very much.”

Many seminary graduates share similar stories before and after their internships. The school found many graduates who wanted to work in underserved areas couldn’t afford to take those positions. Instead, many end up working in clinics serving higher-income, insured patients that offer higher salaries.

Knott and Staci Hubbard are the first two Harrison Fellows and have already begun working with Burke.

“It gives me a fulfilling sense of purpose, peace, and joy knowing that I am involved in work that gives back to others and focuses on something bigger than me,” said Knott.

The seminary has plans to expand the program to four fellows in 2016. Eventually, program leaders hope to recruit East Texas students to pursue a master’s of counseling degree at the seminary in Austin and then return to East Texas as fellows when they graduate.

“We hope their hearts become invested in the lives, culture and challenges these families face,” said Dave Scheider, director of the seminary’s Loise Henderson Wessendorff Center for Christian Ministry and Vocation. “We hope this is a model that will thrive and become a model for others to follow.”

The Harrison Fellows Program is named in honor of Bishop Dena A. Harrison, alumna and chair of the seminary’s board and bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

For more information about Burke or to make an appointment, call 936-634-5010 or 866-242-4556 (toll free). Burke also operates a 24 Hour Crisis Hotline. If you are having a mental health emergency, call 1-800-392-8343.


Burke provides award-winning mental health and developmental disability services across a twelve county region of East Texas. Learn more at Media contact: Colin Rowan, 512-799-6400,


Seminary of the Southwest
Seminary of the Southwest is an Episcopal seminary in Austin affiliated with Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Its mission is to form men and women for the service of Christ in lay or ordained ministry within the church and the larger society. SSW alumni serve in all 50 states, 23 countries and six continents around the globe. Learn more at For more information on the Harrison Fellows Program, contact Christine Anderson, 512-439-0318,

The Episcopal Health Foundation
The Episcopal Health Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of the 10 million people in the 57 counties of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Learn more at