Georgia colleges work on plan to improve mental health on campuses

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (center in the front row) is joined by some Kennesaw State University students during a visit to the Kennesaw campus in February. Kemp has allocated $11.5 million to the University System of Georgia, which includes KSU, for student mental health programs. ERIC STIRGUS/ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (center in the front row) is joined by some Kennesaw State University students during a visit to the Kennesaw campus in February. Kemp has allocated $11.5 million to the University System of Georgia, which includes KSU, for student mental health programs. ERIC STIRGUS/ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM

The University System of Georgia is working on a plan to address mental health for students as many of them have limited access to such services during the coronavirus pandemic.

System officials plan to expand clinical resources to ensure all students have access to psychiatric care by telephone and clinical counseling services. The system is also starting a 24/7 hotline and well-being support programs. Additionally, about $1.7 million in mini-grants will be available to campuses to support mental health and wellness services.

Gov. Brian Kemp in August allocated $11.5 million of the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding, set aside by the federal CARES Act, to support mental health and student support services within the system.

“Our fight with COVID-19 has threatened lives and livelihoods, while taking a toll on the mental well-being of countless Georgians — young and old,” Kemp said in a statement Monday. “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 was an issue for campuses before the pandemic. Experts say it has become a greater problem with more students not being on campus and not having as much access to mental health services.

“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.”

The USG has also dedicated resources for a partnership with The Jed Foundation to help its 26 schools create a long-term strategic plan while implementing immediate actions and programs to support student mental health on campus.

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