Universities ask for more money for mental health resources

Wesley Leblanc

Today, the University of North Florida and 11 other public universities asked the state legislature to give additional funding to universities so they can hire more mental health counselors.

An increase in student demand for mental health counselors prompted UNF representatives to ask for more funds. As the number of students seeking counseling rises, the number of counselors available to students remains the same.

“Due to an increase in student demand and no increase in funding resources, wait times for an initial appointment have gone from one to two weeks just a few years ago, to three or four weeks currently,” said Andrew King, director of the UNF Counseling Center. “When dealing with the stresses of college and the potential for mental illness, time is of the essence.”

UNF administrators hope to receive enough funding to hire two full-time psychologists, two full-time counselors, a full-time psychiatric nurse practitioner, a full-time crisis management counselor and install a database that helps the university gather data on student behavior.

It’s important that UNF fills these positions quickly because according to King, students who seek and receive counseling are more likely to remain in college and graduate on time than students who don’t.

Today also marked the beginning of “Safer, Smarter, Stronger” — a statewide initiative by university system stakeholders meant to promote the importance of hiring mental health counselors.

King was just one of many that spoke today in the capitol about the need for more counseling resources on college campuses. Others include Board of Governors Chair Tom Kuntz, and student veteran at the University of West Florida, Timothy Jones. Jones himself is quite familiar with campus counseling services.

“It’s only because of mental health counseling and community support that I’ll be graduating this spring,” Jones said.

Currently, there is no word on when UNF will receive this additional funding, if at all.

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