Mental health services, sorry no money for that

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Dylan Swarts, the student body president at UVU, and the UVUSA student council members are failing to achieve one of their initiatives for the 2015-2016 academic school year, which is improving mental health services on campus, and creating awareness about mental illness.

However, UVUSA student politicians are not the only ones blatantly ignoring the importance of mental health.

President Matthew Holland and UVU’s Board of Trustees also deserve blame.

In the January 2016 Planning, Budget, and Assessment allocations, it was reported that $75,000 was allocated for marketing the 75th Anniversary of UVU, while at the same time mental health services is drastically understaffed with a three-week wait list to get an appointment with a therapist.

Perhaps the employees who schedule appointments for mental health services should tell the students to use one of the many billboard signs along I-15 advertising the 75th anniversary to cope with their emotional distress.

UVUSA held a mental health focus group meeting on Jan. 22, and Swarts mentioned the possibility of writing legislation, which would mandate an initial $50,000 worth of funding to each public university in Utah in order to hire a mental health therapist.

But when Phil Clegg, the Associate Dean of Students who oversees UVUSA, was asked about the possible legislation, he wrote in an email, “I spoke to Dylan and he isn’t aware of any legislation that has been introduced at this point.  So right now, it is just an idea from the Utah Student Association that is being floated around for consideration.”

Dylan was again questioned about the legislation via email, and he responded, “Our legislative VP decided to drop the bill and just do a resolution this year.”

According to a rough estimate by Alexis Palmer, the Associate Vice President of Life/Dean of Students, it would require about $70,000 dollars to hire a full-time mental health therapist.  So, even if the resolution was granted, the $50,000 wouldn’t be enough to hire an additional full-time therapist, and the funding would need to come from somewhere else, like student fees.

At the press conference for the up coming 2016-2017 student body elections, Phil Varney, a student body presidential candidate and current executive vice president was asked about the state of mental health services at UVU, and student fees.

“It is really important that we operate and cooperate with our student health services and Bill Erb (the senior director of student health services), in fact we received an invitation from Bill, just last week, asking for a raise in student fees there,” said Varney.

The system in place at UVU that requires the director of health services, who is responsible for the physical and emotional well being of the student population, to ask for funding from a bunch of bachelor degree students is ridiculous.

To put this into perspective, for the 2015-2016 academic year, the student fees totaled $354.00, and $106.77 went to funding scholarships, meal plans, and housing for student athletes while only $8.52 went to student health services.

For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, student fees contributed 51.18 percent ($4,391,351.68) of the $8,580,963.37 operating budget for UVU athletics while ticket and concession sales accounted for only $83,035.65 of the budget.

Based on data from The United States Department of Education there were 357 student athletes at UVU participating in a varsity sport on the first day of a scheduled contest from July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015, and UVU’s enrollment is over 30,000 students.

From a public relations perspective, athletics keeps UVU in the news, but with such low rates of attendance, the costs outweigh the benefits – the majority of students are covering the bill for a minority of students, and student health services is suffering the consequences.