The University of Wisconsin Mental Health Task Force published a report in May 2019 covering the current state of mental health services for UW students, as well as recommendations for the future.
In February, Vice Chancellor Lori Reesor and former Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf commissioned the Mental Health Task Force in response to concerns about University Health Services’ ability to meet the mental health needs of students.
The report emphasized the need for clearer communication about awareness for mental health and the services available to students. In addition, the task force recommended UHS hire more providers, increase space at the clinic, improve accessibility, provide resources to prevent staff burnout, and evaluate data around student mental health and then adjust services accordingly.
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The report highlighted several key changes the Associated Students of Madison and UHS plan to make. These included increased financial support from ASM for 10 new health providers — several of which are from underrepresented groups, and some of which can provide services in Spanish and Mandarin.
According to the University Communications news release, Associate Vice Chancellor Jake Baggott now oversees both UHS and University Recreation and Well Being because of a structural change within Student Affairs. The release said this will lead to better communication and collaboration between these two organizations that will benefit students.
Additionally, Mental Health Services will pilot evening hours on Mondays and Tuesdays until 7 p.m. and UHS plans to expand their Behavioral Health program.
“I appreciate the work of the task force who are committed to supporting our students through comprehensive mental health services and wellbeing programs,” said Reesor in the news release.
Student Services Finance Committee voted unanimously against UHS’s budget proposal last February because the proposal failed to address students’ increased need for mental health services. In the following ASM meetings, students and administrators formed the Mental Health Task Force to vocalize students concerns and recommendations to find a way to best address the mental health needs of the UW campus.
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A separate committee is tasked with improving mental health services for graduate and professional students.
“I also want to recognize the valuable work being done by Dr. Jim Keck, Associate Dean of Basic Sciences, who is chairing a group focused on mental health needs and services for graduate students, professional students, and post-docs,” said Reesor in the news release. “This group is working on analyzing gaps in support for graduate students and identifying solutions to fill these gaps.”
The Mental Health Task Force will reconvene this semester to continue their work on improving mental health support for the UW campus.