As the demand for mental health services at the University of Minnesota continues a yearslong swell, student government groups have prioritized the issue.
Both the Minnesota Student Association and the Council of Graduate Students are focusing in on mental health resource accessibility and funding this year and have each created specific committees dedicated to addressing the topic.
MSA is pushing to change funding sources for Boynton Health Services, which is currently funded in part through student services fees.
“We just believe that right now,s the student service channel isn’t working,” MSA President Joelle Stangler said.
Funding Boynton’s resources through tuition instead of student services fees will make resources more accessible because funding would be secure, Stangler said.
Student services fees are an unstable source of funding, she said, because even if an increase is permitted, it cannot exceed 2 to 3 percent growth each year.
Still, she said the group doesn’t want Boynton to completely abandon student services fees because they’re still a significant stream of revenue.
Boynton’s funding is split between student services fees, sales and insurance reimbursements, said Carl Anderson, Boynton’s director and chief health officer.
Approximately 25 percent of Boynton’s entire budget comes from student fees, he said, with the remaining funding coming from insurance reimbursements and a small portion from sales.
Using student fees toward mental health funding allows for student input, Anderson said, adding that funding through tuition might also result in increases in tuition if more resources are necessary.
Due to the jump in demand, Boynton’s chief medical officer Gary Christenson said Boynton’s Mental Health Services has increased its full time staff and created new rooms set aside for mental health counseling. It is also planning to hire two additional mental health staffers, he said.
He said Boynton is working on an analysis of its resources and funding, which will be submitted to the Provost’s Committee on Student Mental Health within the month. He said the results will help guide resources and funding allocations.
Meanwhile, COGS members are working to improve mental health accessibility.
On Feb. 8, the group passed a resolution asking the administration to provide Boynton, Student Counseling Services and the Office of Student Affairs with sufficient resources to make mental health counseling easier for students to access.
The COGS resolution also requests required follow-ups if students miss counseling sessions and that case managers connect students to new service providers within two weeks.
The main goal of the resolution is to eliminate counseling waitlists so that if a student requests a counseling session it can occur within nine days, resolution co-author Jonathan Borowsky said.
“Counseling waitlist[s] [are] the most stubborn problem,” he said, adding that waitlists can hinder students’ abilities to gain access to counseling.