The University System of Georgia has launched a comprehensive plan to significantly expand student mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Georgia will allocate $11.5 million of the Governors Emergency Education Relief funding, set aside by the federal CARES Act, to support mental health and student support services within USG.
“Our fight with COVID-19 has threatened lives and livelihoods, while taking a toll on the mental wellbeing of countless Georgians – young and old,” said Kemp in a press release. “In these challenging times, it is critical that we look out for each other and provide every resource possible to promote mental health across our state, and I’m proud to partner with USG to ensure on-campus support for Georgia’s students.”
“Mental health challenges are on the rise on campuses across the country, including here in our state,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “The university system and its institutions have a responsibility to address this and lessen how these challenges impact students. We are grateful to Governor Kemp and appreciate his support on this critical issue."
While USG students have proven to be remarkably resilient during the pandemic, with higher academic achievement and a record number of degrees awarded, the need for additional on-campus mental health resources has been heightened by the unique challenges students face right now. The USG Mental Health Task Force, appointed in 2019, has worked to identify areas of need across USG and recommend how to immediately expand mental health support services for students with the GEER funding allocation.
The majority of the funding, $8 million, will expand USG clinical resources to ensure every student has access to psychiatric care and clinical counseling services via teletherapy. 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.
In recognition of the unique needs of each USG campus, $1.725 million in mini-grants will be made available to campuses to support mental health and wellness. These funds can be used to establish new technology resources, increase campus programming or enhance communications.
USG has also dedicated resources for a partnership with The Jed Foundation 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.
JED services include the development of a campus-specific strategic plan, advising support in implementing the plan, campus education and engagement services and a mental health resource library for campus use.