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Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Arnold Jennerman and Bill Kinsey, interim co-directors for University Health Services, presented a budget proposal for 2018-19 to the Student Services Finance Committee. 

Arnold Jennerman and Bill Kinsey, interim co-directors for University Health Services, presented a budget proposal for 2018-19 to the Student Services Finance Committee. 

UHS asks smaller budget increase, still working to increase mental health services

Two years ago University Health Services got a 17.5 percent increase to their budget — a massive jump from their average yearly increase of two to four percent — in order to expand their mental health services.

Now, UHS is still struggling to fill all of the new positions in their mental health department that increase provided for but still wants to expand the services offered to students.

Over the past five years UHS has seen an 18 percent increase in medical visits and a 21 percent increase in mental health visits, Arnold Jennerman, one of the UHS interim co-directors, told the Student Services Finance Committee Monday night.

For the 2018-'19 fiscal year, UHS will need a 7.07 percent increase to their budget to meet students’ needs, and a mandated three percent wage increase for all university staff. However, the segregated fee students pay for UHS would only go up 2.5 percent and the remaining budget increase could be filled by cash reserves.

In the past, UHS hasn’t used up the entirety of the budget allocated to them. Jennerman attributes this variability to hiring difficulties. Their budget proposal assumes at least six percent job vacancies, but they ended 2016-'17 with an 8 percent vacancy rate. Jennerman added that in other years it has been as high as 14 percent.

He added that UHS has the most difficulty filling positions for mental health providers, especially as they try to ramp up the capacity of their mental health services.

“We have a very diverse population. So we’re looking for, sometimes, some very specialized services,” Jennerman added.

He added that a shortage of mental health care providers is a national problem, not just for UHS. A few years ago laws changed to require insurance companies to provide as much coverage for mental health services as medical services — but it didn't change the amount of services available.

It's created a bit of a crisis across the country,” Jennerman said. “Demand for mental health services appears to be rising. It's rising at college campuses. Is that a bad news story or a good news story?”

For Jennerman, it's a bad news story because the need for these services is rising, but it’s a good news story because students now have access to mental health care they wouldn't have 20 years ago.

Over the summer UHS plans to expand their facilities to include more offices for mental health providers and more space for group sessions.

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UHS will also provide some emergency contraceptives to victims of sexual assault in the 2018-'19 year.

Bill Kinsey, the other interim co-director who presented the proposed budget to SSFC, explained that on a trial basis UHS would offer copper IUDs to victims who do not have enough insurance to cover the device, which otherwise costs $800, or who can not use their parents' insurance.

SSFC Rep. Sophia Alzaidi pushed back against this proposal, and questioned why the service wouldn’t be available to all students, calling it “exclusionary.”

Kinsey said while he agreed they should support access across campus, the $4,000 line item was only meant to serve as a trial program at the suggestion of obstetricians in UHS’ Women’s Clinic. Additionally, Jennerman questioned if UHS would be the best place to distribute emergency contraception because it must be administered within 72 hours and UHS is only during business hours which may not work for some students' schedules.

On Thursday SSFC will tour the UHS facilities before making a final decision on their proposed budget.

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