University Health Services (UHS) held a press event Monday to discuss initiatives and new policies for the 2023-24 academic year. Their main priority is to establish community care across campus and for students to know they can seek help through UHS services, according to UHS Chief of Staff Marlena Holden.
“We are here for everyone and asking for help is normal and a sign of strength,” she told the Cardinal.
Mental Health Services
UHS is an integrated healthcare center that offers medical, mental health, prevention and wellness services to all UW-Madison students. Holden explained that UHS recently expanded their mental health services to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday, to address the ongoing mental health crisis among students.
“We did this by request of students,” she underscored.
UHS wants to help students find mental health services that appropriately address their needs.
Scheduling an access consultation is the first step students should take for seeking mental health services.
“The conversation is a 20-30 minute phone call for us to best hear what concerns the student has. Then we match them with a provider who best matches their identity,” said Holden. “You can get an access consultation as many times as you’d like.”
For students who are unfamiliar with counseling, UHS also offers Let’s Talk, which is an informal, confidential 30-minute session for students to see what it’s like to speak with a UHS counselor.
“It’s intended to be very brief,” said UHS Communications Manager Kelsey Anderson. “It’s not intended to take the place of formal counseling.”
Group counseling sessions are also available, which can be helpful for students looking for a shorter wait time.
“When people hear about the wait times, they are hearing about the individual wait times – not just the availability we have through group counseling and Let’s Talk,” Holden emphasized.
UHS is committed to creating a safe space for queer students and students of color, officials said.
UHS offers a Survivors of Color Support and Drop-in Queer Survivor Support Group for individuals to connect with peers from similar backgrounds. Holden also told the Cardinal there are 20 people who identify as BIPOC on the mental health services staff and all are trained to work with survivors.
Sexual Health Services
Students can also seek primary care services and specialty clinics through UHS for immunization and gynecology. Clifford noted sexual health services, including reproductive care, birth control and IUD insertion also remain the same despite changes in Wisconsin state law.
“UHS also provides referrals and follow-up care for students who may be seeking an abortion,” she said.
Anderson added that UHS offers STI testing every day of the year, unlike other campuses. If students do not feel comfortable going in to get tested, they can take a chlamydia self-screening exam.
“We understand students may be coming to the clinic for the first time, so we want to make the appointment as easy and accessible as possible,” said Anderson.
UHS is able to provide a majority of services with no cost to students because they are covered by tuition and fees.
“This is a great value to students and it means students can access services without using their parent’s insurance,” said Holden.
According to Anderson, students will get billed if the service they are seeking is considered a product, such as an IUD or crutches, but they will never have to pay for a provider’s time. UHS is well-equipped to help students with their insurance if need be.
“Care managers in medical and mental health services are very well versed in navigating all types of insurance plans,” Holden said.
UHS also has a satellite clinic located in Dejope Residence Hall that is open for drop-in counseling during the academic year. This is a great option for students who are unable to book a UHS appointment online, according to Health Communications Strategist Sarah Clifford.
COVID-19 and Flu Vaccinations
UW-Madison remains one of the most vaccinated campuses in the country, according to Holden. On Thursday, Sept. 15, UHS will launch their annual flu shot campaign. There will be more than 20 clinics open throughout the semester for students to get their flu vaccine.
Soon, UHS will offer new COVID-19 boosters to students and faculty.
“We don’t have a date for that information yet, but as soon as we have it, we will let the campus know,” said Holden.
Currently, UHS is still providing students with free antigen tests and N95 masks every week. Although students do not have to report if they test positive for COVID-19, UHS encourages everyone to stay home if they feel sick.
“We are at a place, given the rate of vaccinations on this campus, that we feel confident people are being as healthy as possible and choosing to make the best healthy choices,” Holden said.
Monkeypox (MPV) is also becoming a growing concern on campus, and UHS is working closely with public health officials to monitor the spread. They partnered with Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC), University Housing and the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center to ensure all messages being conveyed to students and the community are appropriate and accurate, said Clifford.
If students exhibit monkeypox symptoms, they should book appointments with UHS and the nurses will screen the criteria to see if the individual is eligible for vaccination.
Looking ahead, according to officials, UHS is working toward integrating care services to address ongoing mental health needs, in addition to fostering a community of support for all UW-Madison students.
“In addition to basic things like getting your flu shot, we are truly here as a community to help support one another and offer help before or when students need it,” Holden said.