By Rebecca Sikarev | October 10, 2022
Photo Credit: Shutter Stock
The State University of New York (SUNY) system announced plans to use $24 million in American Rescue Funds to improve and expand student health services.
According to the SUNY press release, these funds will be used to expand on-campus mental health and wellness resources such as “after-hours care, the creation of well-being spaces, the hiring of new staff, suicide prevention programming, emergency mini-grants to students who seek off-campus support, and broader training for counseling center staff, as well as other timely interventions.”
With this expansion, the SUNY administration moves to prioritize students’ mental health and foster a diverse, inclusive environment. Campuses across the SUNY system are expanding peer counseling programs, group exercise programs, and creating events dedicated to raising mental health awareness. SUNY Potsdam, for instance, is “creating a Diversity Mindfulness Room in the campus’ Center for Diversity, where BIPOC students will have access to resources and tools that can aid in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression and promote emotional- and self-regulation.”
The University at Albany received $1.4 million in funding. According to University Communications Specialist Erin Frick, the university has allocated the funds to hire more staff, including “five positions over three years within Counseling and Psychological Services and the Office of Health Promotion. Counseling and Psychological Services received funds to hire a case manager, psychologist, and psychiatric nurse practitioner.”
The funding was also used to expand services within Counseling and Psychological services which “began offering after-hours telephone consultations to students.”
In order to smooth the transition from remote learning to in-person studies, UAlbany also “allocated some of the funds to programming and activities designed to decrease isolation, increase socialization, and enhance a sense of belonging and connection.”
These improvements aim to address the post-pandemic concerns over students’ worsening mental health. Referencing research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the SUNY news release claims that “the percentage of adults with symptoms of anxiety or a depressive disorder increased from 36.4 percent to 41.5 percent from Aug, 2020 to Feb. 2021, with the most significant increases occurring among young adults aged 18-29 years old.” Concerned with these troubling statistics, SUNY Board Trustees hope that the expansion will help students cope with their mental health challenges.
SUNY Interim Chancellor Deborah F. Stanley asserts that “the availability of the American Rescue Plan funding has allowed our campuses to be even more innovative and comprehensive in their approach to mental health and wellness services—hiring more experts to increase on-site counseling and creating opportunities to expand wellness and social activities.”
Dedicated to raising mental health awareness, the SUNY System Administration and its campus have strived to achieve this through the SUNY Mental Health Repository. Designed to increase accessibility, the repository aims to make looking for information on mental health services far simpler. As stated in the SUNY press release, “the free resources it provides include ‘three tabs for users to explore: a list of all campus and New York county resources, a map feature including resource locations, and universal resources related to students who belong to underrepresented backgrounds and other affinity groups.’”
Ensuring that everyone is represented, the Universal Resources tab contains services that are customized to fit different experiences and challenges. The resources are designed to foster inclusivity and are “tailored toward specific groups, including student parents, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, military-affiliated students, people with disabilities, and student athletes—this tab also provides substance misuse resources.”