A pilot program for off-campus mental health stipend program for low-income students is set to launch after a university contribution of $10,000  to the Georgetown University Student Association in support of this initiative.

University administration committed $10,000 in donated funds on Thursday, according to Rachel Pugh, the university’s senior director for strategic communications. This contribution will supplement the $1,217.89 already raised by SaxaFund, a crowdfunding platform to launch student initiatives, as of press time.

Student-led efforts to raise funds for an off-campus mental health program were met with a $10,000 contribution from the university Thursday.

The stipend will provide off-campus mental health support for approximately ten to 20 students with demonstrated financial need. The pilot program is expected to launch within the next three weeks, according to GUSA President Kamar Mack (COL’19).

Students will be selected for the program by the financial aid office and a Counseling and Psychiatric Services case manager.

CAPS currently provides individualized mental health care for a maximum of two semesters, after which the service refers students to off-campus providers, according to Rachel Pugh, the university’s senior director for strategic communications. Only about 55 percent of psychiatrists accept private insurance, according to a 2014 study by the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Vince WinklerPrins, Assistant Vice President for Student Health said these efforts reflect university commitment to student wellness.

“We are deeply committed to well-being of our students and always looking for innovative ways to continue to serve them,” WinklerPrins wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are actively exploring new avenues for robust, sustainable, long term support that address both access to off-campus services and cost and we hope to have new resources in place this fall.”

The announcement of the university’s commitment comes after a series of discussions between GUSA and university officials to make mental health services more affordable for Georgetown students, Mack said.

“When students make their voices heard and students express things that matter, the university hears it and donors hear it and a lot of that has to do with the fact that this issue got brought forth and now is being implemented,” Mack said.

The GUSA mental health policy coalition, led by Kenna Chick (SFS ’20), launched a petition in November requesting funds for the pilot program from the Office of the President and through the creation of an alumni fund. Though the petition garnered over 1,000 signatures, student mental-health advocates turned to SaxaFund to raise the necessary money, in lieu of university support. The petition demonstrated the widespread student support and need for improved mental health support on campus, according to Chick.

“It’s nice to know that people care about something we’ve been fighting for a long time,” Chick said. “Administration has always been very supportive in the sense that they definitely recognize the issue and so to hear today them announce that they are giving a financial contribution, we’re definitely very happy.”

It is unclear what has changed since November to prompt university administration to provide funds for the program, but Mack said he is excited about future collaborations between GUSA and the university administration.

“The whole point of this process is to better understand how the off-campus therapy stipend process would work at Georgetown,” Mack said. “The big picture conversation of making mental health affordable can be attacked in a number of ways and this is a way that we’re addressing it in spring 2018.”

The program will supplement the mental health services already on campus, including CAPS, and will serve as a longer-term solution for students, Mack said.

“There was always the understanding of the problem and an understanding of the importance of addressing it,” Mack said. “Making mental health affordable is a tricky situation and our hope is to get closer and closer to that ultimate goal.”

Thursday’s announcement serves as the beginning of a longer-term mental health initiative that Mack and GUSA Vice President Jessica Andino (COL ’19) think will affect Georgetown students for a long time.

“This issue is one that is going to need continuous focus, we haven’t completely solved the problem of mental health affordability,” Mack said. “We’re about to launch into the next GUSA campaign season, so we hope that this issue of how do we make mental health, and more generally, student health more affordable is a continuous conversation.”

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