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Thursday, May 30, 2024
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UB to expand counseling services after receiving $1 million in state funds

Most of the funding will be used to hire 7 new counselors and 6 other staff members

<p>UB's Ellicott Complex is home to UB Counseling Services and thousands of students.</p>

UB's Ellicott Complex is home to UB Counseling Services and thousands of students.

Content warning: This article briefly mentions suicide in a statistical context.

UB is expanding its mental health services after receiving $1 million in funding from New York State, the university announced last week. 

The “bulk” of that funding will be used to hire seven new counselors, each of whom will be “embedded” in one of seven academic units. The seven counselors will start over the summer, bringing the number of counselors to 31. 

“The biggest thing is the accessibility,” Director of Counseling Services Sharon Mitchell said of the embedded counselors in a statement. “It’s just more convenient if you don’t have to add travel time to get to and from your appointment.”

The rest of that money will be used to hire six more staff members — namely four graduate assistants, a financial well-being program coordinator, and a sexual and reproductive health nurse educator — expand after-hours teletherapy services, and provide trauma, illness and grief training to faculty and staff.

The funding comes after years of student dissatisfaction with access to mental health services on campus. Many students have criticized UB Counseling Services for its 10-appointment-per-year limit and long wait times to even see a therapist. 

“Prioritizing embedded counselors and other mental health-related services underscores our continued commitment to the well-being of our students, ensuring they have the resources and support they need to thrive both academically and personally here at UB,” Vice President for Student Life Brian Hamluk said in a statement. 

The university has embedded counselors in different colleges and units within UB since 2017, when they hired a counselor to work in UB Athletics. Embedded counselors are meant to both provide individual therapy and do outreach, especially during particularly stressful points in the semester. 

UB has since embedded counselors in five other schools. The university will be embedding its seven soon-to-be-hired counselors the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Education, and schools of Management, Social Work, Nursing, Public Health and Health Professions, and Architecture and Planning. 

Part of UB’s $1 million will also go toward a contract with a “professionally licensed vendor” that can provide online mental health services or teletherapy outside of Counseling Services’ normal business hours. Counseling Services is only open until 7 p.m. two nights per week, which Mitchell acknowledged as a barrier to accessibility for students with packed schedules. 

“The teletherapy services will allow us to provide services for students whose schedules just can’t fit into that or who might do a round of treatment with us but need additional care,” Mitchell said. 

The funding is part of a nearly $10 million annual investment from Governor Kathy Hochul’s Office into the expansion of mental health services at 28 SUNY campuses, including UB, according to a press release from the governor’s office. The funding will be used to expand telehealth services and hire or retain 90 mental health professionals SUNY-wide, according to a SUNY fact sheet

During the five years prior to the pandemic, Counseling Services saw a 43% increase in the number of students trying to access mental health services and a 29% increase in the number of counseling sessions, according to UB. Demand for mental health services has only increased since the arrival of COVID-19. UB also saw an increase in the number of students who died by suicide, attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts during the pandemic. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with a mental health emergency, call University Police immediately at 716-645-2222. If you are stressed or in need of someone to talk to, contact UB’s Counseling Services at 716-645-2720. If you are in a crisis situation, contact Crisis Services of Western New York’s 24/7 hotline at 716-834-3131. Students can also text the Crisis Text Line by sending “GOT5” to 741-741.

Grant Ashley is the editor in chief and can be reached at grant.ashley@ubspectrum.com  


GRANT ASHLEY
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Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for NPR, WBFO, WIVB and The Buffalo News. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @Grantrashley. 

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