$11.5 million coming to U System of Georgia campuses for mental health

CARES Act funding is being set aside to expand clinical resources at USG and to create a consortium that will develop a long-term mental health services model for the system's 26 institutions.

Few in higher ed would argue that mental health concerns among college students has long been a hurricane-intensity problem. Add COVID impacts to the map and that mental health hurricane would be considered a Category 5.

At least one state is passing along a good chunk of CARES Act funding to its universities so they can help students weather this storm.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has allocated $11.5 million of the Governors Education Relief funding, set aside by the federal CARES Act, to support mental health and student support services within the University System of Georgia.

A big portion of the funding, $8 million, will expand USG clinical resources to ensure every student has access to virtual psychiatric care and clinical counseling services. Expanded services will also offer in-person counseling options through a partnership with Christie Campus Health, a 24/7 hotline and well-being support programs. Additional funds will be set aside to create a USG Mental Health Consortium, which will develop a long-term service model for USG’s 26 institutions.

USG has also dedicated resources for a partnership with The Jed Foundation (JED) to help campuses create a long-term strategic plan while implementing immediate actions and programs to support student mental health on campus. JED  provides a comprehensive public health approach in promoting emotional well-being and preventing suicide and serious substance abuse.

Further, $1.725 million in mini-grants will be made available to individual campuses to support mental health and wellness. These funds can be used to establish new technology resources, increase campus programming or enhance communications. Grant requests are being accepted through the end of this month and the funds will be awarded in January.

“Mental health challenges are on the rise on campuses across the country, including here in our state,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in an announcement. “The university system and its institutions have a responsibility to address this and lessen how these challenges impact students.”

USG established a Mental Health Task Force in 2019, and its members have identified areas of need across USG. So the task force will make recommendations on how to immediately expand mental health support services for students.

Melissa Ezarik is senior managing editor of UB.

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