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BOG calls for more funding for mental health counseling and safety at Florida universities

By Corenda Bell | Staff Writer
On November 21, 2017

While mental health and safety have become bigger issues on college campuses, the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) is calling for more money to fund mental health services and safety within the state universities.

There are eight public universities in Florida that are understaffed with mental health counselors, according to the BOG, which oversees the State University System. Both Florida A&M University and Florida State University have nearly 2,000 students per counselor.

The International Association of Counseling Services recommends that there is one professional staff to every 1,000 students. Currently, at FAMU there are five full-time clinical staff including a director.

During the BOG meeting held on November 8-9, university representatives highlighted plans for increasing law enforcement and mental health services on campus as part of a statewide attempt to ensure student safety and access to resources they may need.

The State University System Counseling Services identified a legislative budget request for the hiring of more mental health counselors as well as psychologists, prevention specialists, and office staff for Florida universities.

“In September, the Counsel for Student Affairs presented a legislative budget request to increase campus counseling services, to expand student mental health and behavior health coverage of the system,” Norm Tripp told fellow BOG members. “That budget request was approved by the board and submitted to the Legislature.”

According to a BOG document, the LBR for seven new positions at FAMU is totaled at $602,310. As for FSU, the budget request is $1,886,130 for 18 new positions.

The goals for FAMU are to hire additional staff, provide on-call telephone and self-help services to directly assist students in their mental health needs to reach academic goals. Also, FAMU wants to provide and reach out to students so that they can thrive without the need for treatment.

The Mental Health Counseling Enhancement plan for FAMU requires bringing on one professional psychologist from 2018-2019. FSU has a Mental Health Counseling Implementation Plan to hire six additional professional counselors each year from 2017-2021.

“The SUS mental health workshop that was called by the counsel of student affairs and all of the directors of our counseling center of the state. They met in October at Florida Atlantic University for the primary purpose of talking about how we can be more proactive on addressing mental health issues on our campuses,” Corey Kane, Vice President for Student Affairs at Florida Atlantic University, explained. “And reaching out to our secondary schools and elementary partners to provide some tools for them as well for we realize mental health issues don’t occur just in college, but prior to students coming to college.”

The need for more investment in mental health services is because professional services have become more critical for universities and more importantly, student success. According to the Board of Governors document, the American College Health Association states that over 50 percent of college students reported overwhelming experiences of anxiety in the last year.

“A lot of mental health issues come while students are in college,” Emerald Bell, a senior elementary education major at FAMU, said. “I think the school should have mental health outreach programs so that people with mental health issues won’t feel like an outcast or ashamed.”

More effective and professional mental health programs at universities could prevent any mental health issues for students after college.

In November 2014, FSU alum Myron May, entered Strozier Library shooting five people and injuring three. May suffered from a mental illness called paranoid schizophrenia, a thought process disorder, after graduating from the university and starting a promising career as an attorney.

Providing more counseling services and police officers on campuses may prevent any similar events from happening again.

Now, universities are challenged to provide counseling with immediate and professional service. Students who utilize these counseling services can be enabled to remain enrolled and be successful while pursuing a degree on their way to entering the workforce.

The next BOG meeting is scheduled for January 24-25 at FSU.

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