TIFFIN, OH (WTOL) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says America's heroin epidemic is the reason behind a shortage of mental health professionals to combat the problem.

In response to the shortage, the department is issuing grants to help train more clinical mental health professionals. Heidelberg University is one of the universities receiving these grants.

It has one of the highest rated graduate counseling programs in the nation. With the help of a four-year grant though, they hope to fill a growing need for counselors in the area.

Like all aspiring mental health professionals, graduate students in Heidelberg's Master of Fine Arts in Counseling program have to complete a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship to be eligible to receive a license.

The experience allows the students to work with a variety of professionals in a variety of mental health related fields.

"So, they will get additional training which one, will make them better counselors, but also make them them more marketable and more competitive in the job market," MAC program director Marjorie Shavers said.

But many times, the demands of the internships mean deciding between work or the program.

"A lot of times, our students have had to quit their jobs, because they have to have so many hours," Dean of the school of Education and Counseling Dr. Jo-Ann Lipford Sanders said.

The $1.3 million grant will help fund graduate students as a $10,000 grant.

The gr ant will cover 4 years and help up to 78 students through the program. The hope is by alleviating financial stress, more people could become the much needed clinical mental health counselors in Northwest Ohio.

"We're going to help with this drug epidemic. We're going to help with families coming together. We're going to help with understanding mental health issues better," Sanders said. "But we want our students to be trained well to do that."

The gr ant takes effect September of 2018.