HARRISONBURG, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Mental health facilities are experiencing a staff shortage, especially in rural areas.

Many local patients are traveling a long way to get help. However, students from James Madison University are working on a solution. 

Thanks to a JMU program that launched in August, behavioral health students are adding more accessible care in six counties across Central Virginia.

JMU’s “rise-up” program sent 25 students to facilities in counties that are classified as health professional shortage areas, including Greene, Augusta,  Page, Rockingham, Rockbridge and Shenandoah.

One intern, Monica Cooper; is working at the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center. She said this not only helps her gain experience but allows more patients to get the care they need.

“This role is very special. It requires a lot out of us, but the rewards are bountiful,” she said.

The students are receiving stipends while they train and provide assistance to these facilities due to a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Over the next four years, JMU will send 100 students, providing 12,900 hours of clinical services to the facilities. The program also encourages students to continue working in these understaffed areas after graduating.