SSFC pushes for more mental health services at UHS
UW-Madison’s Student Services Finance Committee criticized University Health Services during their budget hearing for not providing enough mental health services.Image By: Photo courtesy of University Health Services
The Student Service Finance Committee heard a budget request from University Health Services in their meeting Monday night.
Associated Students of Madison Chair Billy Welsh started out the meeting with a plea for more mental health services on campus, recounting his personal struggle.
“Expanding mental health resources is an issue I feel very passionate about. Mental health problems affect so many students across our campus. Unfortunately, these services are also one of the areas where our university is at its weakest,” Welsh said.
UHS Chief Medical Officer Bill Kinsey and Interim Executive Director Arnold Jennerman presented their budget, asking for a total of $18 million in segregated fees, an overall 1 percent increase.
UHS is granted $1.2 million with salary and fringe benefits for the Student Health Insurance Plan.
Students visiting UHS for mental health rose by 34 percent over the past five years. 25 percent of their services are dedicated to mental health, now equal to the average support of medical services.
Throughout this time, they have added essential Survivor Services and Violence Prevention staff, however they are still falling short of the needs of the student body.
“In a big way, you’re failing students with mental health demand on campus,” SSFC Vice Chair Zaakir Abdul-wahid said.
In order to better equip the mental health sector of UHS, they requested funding to add three counselors to their staff each year for the next five years, resulting in 18 counselors by 2025.
“One of the challenges with our current budget is that we’re out of space for mental health providers,” Jennerman said.
As a whole, UHS has underspent their mental health budget by $3 million dollars since 2008 due to lack of space and personnel.
In order to accommodate more students, UHS has pushed developing group counseling for many years. They added the online resource, Silver Cloud, over a year ago as an extension of their current services.
Group counseling has been one of the "most effective strategies to address most issues experienced by students," according to UHS Marketing and Prevention Services Interim Director Marlena Holden. This semester, UHS offers dozens of confidential groups at no cost.
“[However], nothing will replace individual counseling,” Jennerman said.
SSFC Chair Jeremy Swanson reinforced the need to expand mental health support on campus.
“I think we should fight as hard as we can for what the students on this campus need. Mental health is one of the areas that we are willing to spend more money,” Swanson said.
Editors Note: A previous version of this article included false data on the services that UHS provides. There is also additional information provided by UHS Marketing and Prevention Services Interim Director Marlena Holden about the counseling services currently provided on campus.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter