Mental health services, sorry no money for that

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.

17 thoughts on “Mental health services, sorry no money for that

  1. Just move the athletics student fees to mental health. If anyone argues that sports are more important than the well-being of students, something is very wrong. There’s clearly a demand for mental health services on campus, but I’ve never once heard people talk about going to athletics program events outside of doing it as a commitment for a UVU student organization. Or is the athletics program operating at a loss? Those fields would make great locations for additional parking lots or classroom buildings.

  2. Thanks for your comment Don. I agree with you, and think that using student fees for student health services would be a better use of the money, and the only way to create some change is for students to express their opinions to UVUSA and the administration.

  3. First of all this was not an initiative that we campaigned on at all. The initiative was started by the Utah Student Association, and association for all students in Utah. And we are not failing to achieve our initiative at all. We will have 2 more mental health therapists by the end of the year because of our efforts. I presented to President Holland, the cabinet, and hundreds on others in PBA hearings about our need for mental health here, and specifically asked them for more money and resources.

    UVUSA had no say in the legislation that was going to be proposed and later changed into a resolution. Carlos Moreno, the Student Body President of SLCC and the VP of Legislation for the Utah Student Association was tasked with that job, and because of timing he was recommended by legislators supporting the bill to do a resolution this year and work on a bill to be put in next year, which is already in the works. The legislation was to ask for $50,000 one time allocation per school and $150,000 ongoing to support 2 new mental health therapists at each university. Every school in Utah is in the same situation as us when it comes to Mental Health, except for BYU, which is privately funded.

    To clarify about fees, the $8.52 fee does not go to mental health at all. This is all for the health center but specifically for the medical and clinic side, not the mental health services side. Mental Health Services are all paid for by the state/ tuition. I brought up the idea of having a new fee for mental health services, but it was shot down from advisers/ administrators because as soon as student fees start funding things that are supposed to be funded by the university, administrators will start to expect student fees to pay for all student services. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done though, but higher education and student fees is a very political process. Student Health Services did not request any money to go toward mental health.

    Instead of just assuming things you should do your homework. I have open office hours every day of the week. You are always welcome to come down, or email me at [email protected] to get the facts before writing an article.

    1. Dylan. I would love to talk to you about this. I wish you had given me this information when I asked you about this issue before, because there have been opportunities for you to do so. Let’s set up a time to meet and talk.

  4. I second what Dylan said in that we provide open office hours for matters like this and others. When a student not only expresses resentment, but they do so in such an open forum, it is difficult for the truth to be understood. I applaud your effort in reaching out in a way that you see as beneficial to the students, but I wish that you would do so only after the option of open dialogue has been exhausted.

    1. Thanks for your response and input Phil. I appreciate it, and I can see where you are coming from, but there have been multiple attempts at a dialogue. I would love to meet with you guys so we can work together to facilitate change.

  5. The only thing you ever asked me about was the legislation, and I told you they decided to do a resolution instead and sent you a copy of it. Don’t try to put this on me.

  6. As UVU alum I hate to see that some things have yet to change. I enjoyed my time at the university and wouldn’t have gone somewhere else, but that being said I believe Mr. Stirland spotlights a large problem at the school. I started when the school was still a state college and at the time appreciated that they were so dedicated and focused on growth. The problem is that the school has continued to hyper focus on growth which had blinded them and caused them to neglect almost every other part of the university. Increasing attendance and constructing more buildings has to end at some point and the school needs to focus on improving what they already have. I found teachers in every dept who were under qualified but hired to meet the demands of increasing attendance. Testing was done in a trailer that was shared by student athletes (and I’m sure paid in part for by my student fees that went to student athletes, but at the same time I was still required to pay to take a tests). Or parking where students were required to pay substantial fees for passes when management knee there weren’t enough stalls proportionate to the number of students enrolled. On top of this the school continually took parts of the already limited parking areas to, you guessed it, construct more buildings. Whenever these topics or the subject of Mr. Stirlands article come before the hierarchy of the school they act as if their hands are tied behind their back and have no say or choice in the matter. This is coming from a honest and objective point of view. I graduated from UVU and loved it, I made life long friendships with faculty and students and want my alma mater to be the best verison of itself possible.

    1. Thanks for your comment Reyna. I appreciate the feedback. This article is part of a column I write for the newspaper, which gives me space in the content to implement my opinion.

  7. The information being presented is clearly being stretched and manipulated to give validity to the authors argument. If this article is a reflection of the UVU review, then it just shows how little the UVU review actually contributes to the UVU student community, and elucidates to the fact that the paper has become a vehicle for tearing down student trust rather than building pride in UVU. You attack the athletic fee, but how much of my student fee/tuition is going towards the publication of this newspaper? Maybe it is better that those funds go to Health Services, rather than a newspaper that writes articles of little academic substance.

    1. Thanks for the input Caleb. For the 2015-2016 year, there was a $67.64 student fee for funding student activities, which includes a variety of organizations on campus such as UVUSA, UVU Review, other programs on campus, and clubs. The elections for the 2016-2017 student council are happening now — as I’m sure you’ve noticed from the many posters hanging in the hall. If you’d like to see a change in student fees, they would be very receptive to your opinion. I am meeting with Dylan Swarts, the current student body president, later this week to further discuss in detail student fees, and will be writing a follow up article. Also, if you have an issue with the content at the UVU Review, please feel free to write a letter to the editor, and we can publish it.

  8. Some great points are being made here. In my opinion, I think articles like these are important. Many media sources in the United States are partially funded by the federal government. A news broadcasting agency or network organization (like NPR) would be completely invalid and one dimensional if it was expected to run stories and articles that only built trust in the federal government. The purpose for media is education, and sharing ideas. The Review should not be a tool for UVU to gain patriotism. I believe the intent of this article is to raise questions about the destination of the large amounts of money students are being asked to pay for tuition, which is a topic every student at UVU could stand to learn more about.

  9. Why are we all paying for the athletics department, then? Why isn’t everyone paying $100 each semester for my programs? I’m sure you have great opinions about people paying to support others without choice in the matter.

    1. Don, I am working on a follow up article that will answer your questions and have a more information on student fees. Thanks for your engagement.

  10. Jared, thanks for the interesting read and shedding light on a very important issue. I would much rather have my student fees go towards funding mental health services! I’m glad too see that your reporting is ruffling a few feathers, I think that’s a sign of a good investigative journalist.

    1. Thank you Christian, I appreciate your comment. I’m working on a follow up article that will have some information on how students can get involved with the process of setting student fees.

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