With limited revenue, University Health Services works to serve students

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Sitting in a booth at the Starbucks in the SUB, sophomore psychology major Baylee Dunn opened up about her experience with counseling services on campus and expressed the importance of its availability to students.

“A lot of times when you are looking for counseling there is a lot of stigma attached, which makes it a last resort, so having quicker access is necessary,” Dunn said. “I called them to make an appointment and the soonest I could get was two weeks out, which was frustrating because I needed something sooner.”

Boise State University Health Services provides a multitude of health and wellness amenities for students, faculty and dependents. However, the counseling sector is presented with a dichotomy between needing to increase student outreach efforts and receiving enough funding and revenue to satisfy demands.

Funding and revenue 

Boise State currently employs seven full-time clinicians, four part-time clinicians and four master’s level trainees. Under the payment model that Boise State uses, insurance is billed, however there are options for a $30 flat fee or other arrangements if this is too costly.

“We are not necessarily in the money making-business,” said Matt Niece, director of counseling services at Boise State. “We strive to make sure students get the services they need.”

However, under the funding and payment model that Boise State is under, funds and revenue primarily come from insurance bills and student/tuition fees.

According to Ken Kline, associate vice president of Budget and Planning, revenue-generating is in a transition period following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Prior to the ACA the health center received revenue from student health insurance (SHIPP on Boise State’s campus) due to the State Board of Education’s policy mandating all students to have health insurance.

“When the ACA came out, SHIPP did not meet the requirements,” Kline said. “The pricing we got to replace SHIPP was unaffordable for students and the State Board resolved to remove its policy and allow the market to take care of it.”

Photo by Axel Quartarone.

Due to changes to policy and insurance, the health center revenue sources have been restricted and declining.

“It is difficult and we are working to get more funding,” Niece said. “The funding would allow for current staff to be given more room to be creative. We have grown the training program to 12 clients a week per trainee. We didn’t have this before.” Additionally, as a part of University Health Services, counseling receives money through student fees.

Counseling services requested two funding increases last year: an increase in the student fees and in the regular budget specifically to hire additional counseling positions, according to Kline. The student fee increase request last academic school year to be applied this year was approved. The budget process allowed for two new counseling positions to be added, which was the priority.

“The one caveat is that because it is a student fee, the money received is based on enrollment numbers,” Kline said.

The counseling center can generate their own revenue through outside sources, such as students that have insurance, charging students or collecting donations, according to Kline.

“We don’t have the flexibility to say we need six more counselors–let’s raise the fees to fund those,” Kline said.

The State Board caps Boise State’s tuition increases by restricting what the overall total can be. Increases come at an expense to other items that are also requesting funding, which creates the need for a ratio between what gets funding and what doesn’t.

“This year we have 250 appointment slots available every week—or one appointment every hour—available for students, faculty and their dependents that don’t always fully fill up,” Niece said. “Everybody cares about mental health, we just have to keep improving the student outreach and funding allocations to improve the service.”

Student outreach

Niece explained that the two week wait period that Dunn and other students have experienced is not uncommon in the practice. The busiest times of the year, according to Niece, are October and March. This is when academic burdens combine with pre-existing elements to increase stress on students.

Freshman economics and business major Kylie Lasniewski admitted she is uninformed about counseling services on campus.

“I know nothing about University Health Services (UHS),” Lasniewski said. “From what I can remember, orientation leaders and campus representatives briefly mentioned UHS is in the Norco building, but this isn’t enough if you realize you need options after orientation.”

Dunn confirmed this as she explained if students are not specifically looking for counseling, then they may never know it is a service on campus.

“They don’t really advertise much. I think I was originally searching for academic counseling, but that brought me to the mental health page,” Dunn said.

Recent studies conclude that mental illnesses has increased among the younger student generations. Additionally, the number of college students seeking help for mental health issues is rising, accourding to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Niece agreeded with this, explaining that younger generations are more likely to understand that they might need help.

“At the beginning of the year I worked full-time and it was difficult to find something that worked with my schedule,” Dunn said.

She continued to say that because the average college student may have a full class schedule, work schedule and outside activities and responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time for any doctor appointment, let alone a counseling session because of University Health Service’s limited hours.

“I ended up switching my job schedule for it,” Dunn said. “Even if the wait should be unnecessary, it is worth it.”

Niece explained that partnerships with the wellness team, lectures in the classroom and reach out to student dorms are a few of the steps being taken this year to make sure students have contact with these services.

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