AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a bigger focus on mental illness following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we’re seeing more schools invest in mental health services here in Texas.
Tuesday, the UT System Board of Regents announced they’ll set aside more than $7 million to improve mental health programs. The board told KXAN in a news release this is “part of The University of Texas System’s continued commitment to support student safety, mental health and wellness initiatives at all 14 UT institutions.”
According to UT, over the past seven years at the UT Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center, there has been a 62 percent increase in the number of counseling sessions.
Chris Brownson, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Director of Counseling and Mental Health Center at UT Austin, said, “There’s nine different initiatives in this package related to the funding.”
The targeted efforts will include enhancing new and ongoing programs:
- An after-hours crisis counseling service — provides mental health crisis support 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Bystander intervention initiatives — help students spot warning signs, also aim to reduce relationship violence, drug overdose, and suicide
- Collegiate recovery centers — recovery from drug or alcohol addiction
- Web-based alcohol education and sexual assault and harassment prevention
- Prevention/early intervention for high-risk drinking
- Telehealth video platform for mental health service and web-based video self-help
- Health communications campaign
- Toolkit on engaging men in sexual assault and harassment prevention
- Thrive @ UT: an app to enhance student well-being
“We know that in order for our students to be academically successful, they need to have the conditions for them to be able to be successful,” Brownson explained.
The funding announcement comes just weeks after a new policy went into effect at UT Austin. Beginning this semester, UT is subsidizing on-campus counseling services.
The counseling services previously cost $10 per session. For many students, “I always thought that the price, the cost of that was always a little bit of a burden,” explained sophomore Reese Brinkley.
He told KXAN he’s happy to hear the cost is now being subsidized. “Every college student has to go through stress. Every college student,” he said.
According to Brownson, since waiving the cost, the mental health center has seen a 43 percent increase in the number of students coming in this spring, compared to last spring.