Health Center seeks fee increase

The Student Health and Counseling Center provides students with services like counseling, medical and wellness services. (Larry Valenzuela/ The Collegian)

The Student Health and Counseling Center is seeking a student health fee increase for the fiscal year of 2020-21, part of which would enable it to hire two counselors and another case manager.

The health center saw more than 53,000 visits by students in the 2017-18 academic year. The top two reasons were for primary care and for counseling.

With the fee increase, the counseling department could be able to significantly increase the more than 5,000 visits it handled in 2017-18.

“We want to ensure you are getting the biggest bang for your buck,” said Janell Morillo, associate vice president, Student Health, Counseling, and Wellness. “[That] you are coming in to the health center, and you know that you can get medical, counseling or wellness services that will be top of the line.”

The center depends on the mandatory health fee that students pay each year. The whole center is run by students’ health fee payments, which allows the center to provide services at no cost and/or low cost.

In 2012, the center had requested a health fee increase of $5 per year over a period of four years, adding up to a total increase of $20 by 2016.

The average health fee for the current academic year of 2018-19 at Fresno State is $226 ($113 per semester).

For the fiscal year of 2020-21, depending on which fee increase is selected, students could be paying either $264 a year or $278 a year. An increase to $278 would allow the center to hire a case manager and two additional counselors.

The counseling department provides services such as: individual, relationship, group counseling and a psychiatrist to the students. The top three most-treated mental illnesses are anxiety, depression and relationships, whether that be with family, friends and/or roommates.

Currently, students’ average waiting time to speak with a counselor for the first time is about two to three weeks, according to Malia Sherman, director of counseling and psychological services at Fresno State.

Christine Edmondson, a professor in the psychology department, said that when a potential patient reaches out to a counselor, that person should receive counseling sooner rather than later. If a patient does have to wait to talk to someone, the patient should not cancel the appointment, she said.

“My advice is if your problem is not urgent and you have reached out and you are waiting a couple of weeks, keep that appointment even if you feel like things are better,” Edmondson said. “It is hard to reach out.”

The counselors at the Student Health and Counseling Center are governed by an executive order from the California State University system. The executive order mandates that counselors spend 60-65 percent of their days engaging in direct patient contact.

“I think most of our counselors are actually exceeding that directive,” Sherman said.

Mitzy Zacrias, a Fresno State student, said she believes that the services the center provides for the students are good to have on campus.

“I think that it is a good idea we have counselors, but I don’t believe that students are utilizing them as much as they should be,” Zacrias said.

Fresno State students have health support services available on campus and the ability to take advantage of the services that are provided for them.

“Our mission is to promote the academic and personal success of Fresno State students by encouraging the maintenance of healthy lifestyles and providing affordable and accessible help in psychological care,” Morillo said.

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