Students: fund mental health fully

Student demand for mental health resources is rising on campus.

by Cody Nelson


University of Minnesota students protested Boynton Health Service’s underfunded student services fees request for more mental health resources at a public hearing Thursday.

Several students spoke out against the Student Services Fees Committee’s initial recommendations for Boynton and other administrative units.

Increased demand for mental health services in recent years led Boynton to request more than $380,000 in fees to fund six new staff positions and to eliminate the $10 co-pay for mental health visits.

In the SSFC’s initial recommendations, Boynton’s request was underfunded by nearly $100,000. The committee recommended Boynton absorb that amount into its general budget, according to the committee’s rationale.

Tim Bell, a senior health advocate, was critical of how the SSFC chose to allocate student services fees at the hearing.

The committee should differentiate “nice-to-have” and “need-to-have” with fee allocations, he said.

“You can’t put a price on someone’s life.”

The Mental Health Clinic saw nearly 3,000 University students in 2012, continuing a steady increase from about 2,000 in 2004, according to Boynton data.

“We cannot afford to lose the momentum we have in mental health right now,” Bell said.

When Chris Luhmann was struggling with anxiety and depression in December 2011, his academic adviser suggested he see a psychiatrist at Boynton.

But when he tried to schedule an appointment, he was put on a wait list until the next month.

In the meantime, Luhmann saw a doctor in his hometown who prescribed him ineffective medication. This problem wasn’t rectified until the University student was able to get an appointment with a mental health specialist at Boynton.

Luhmann was among the students who asked the SSFC for full funding of Boynton’s mental health expansion request.

The SSFC only recommended funding for four of the requested six new mental health staff positions.

“Boynton wanted to hire six new people for a reason,” Luhmann said, “because of the increasing demand for mental health issues that students on campus are facing.”

The SSFC will have its final deliberations for administrative groups this weekend, during which it will reconsider the initial recommendations, said Kyle Olson, chair of the administrative units SSFC.

“I can’t speak for the committee members … but [Boynton’s request] will certainly be discussed,” Olson said. “We’re not done with it, obviously.”

Gary Christenson, Boynton’s chief medical officer, said Boynton officials appreciate the funding and understand the committee’s recommendations.

“We wish that it was possible to meet the full request,” he said, “but also accept that the fees committee has still made a substantial contribution to us meeting the needs of students.”

Other administrative units

Student representatives from Northrop Concerts and Lectures, the Department of Recreational Sports and the Minnesota Daily also advocated for their groups at the public hearings.

Northrop Concerts and Lectures requested $500,000 in fees funding but was recommended to receive about $157,000, according to the initial recommendations.

Northrop representatives said they want more funding to pay staff and expand programming.

The Department of Recreational Sports’ Advancement Program, which pursues other sources of revenue to decrease the department’s dependence on student services fees, was also recommended to receive less funding than requested.

The committee cut off funding completely for fiscal year 2015, funding the program with $109,400 for fiscal year 2014.

Nate Moen, business operations officer and co-publisher of the Minnesota Daily, said the newspaper is requesting that the $70,000 balance sweep the SSFC recommended for fiscal year 2014 be the last one.

Moen has no control over editorial content.

Initial recommendations funded the Daily’s entire $505,000 request, less the $70,000 balance sweep. The previous year, the paper saw a $250,000 balance sweep.