Investing in you: Student Governing Association plans on expanding mental health services

Lafene Health center is working with the student governing association to expand mental health and well-being services at Kansas State University. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

A 24/7 news cycle, the war on terror and terrible things occurring in the world — this is what it is like living in a post 9/11 world, Evan Porter, Student Governing Association’s Speaker of the Student Senate, said.

“There’s a lot of other external factors that make our generation uniquely worse off than past generations,” Porter said. 

The Student Governing Association is investing $200,000 in expanding Counseling and Psychological Services and an additional $500,000 for student health and well-being services, Porter said.

Porter said his generation is ready to break down the stigma surrounding mental health. 

“Now more than ever, I think students need access to those mental health resources,” Porter said.  “I think it’s our responsibility to make sure that they can get that free access that CAPS has always worked really hard to maintain for students at K-State.”

Funding for this plan comes from the $479.40 student service fee every full-time Manhattan campus student pays. This fee goes toward financing entities such as Lafene Health Center, the K-State Student Union, the Peters Recreation Complex and Student Legal Services.

“In the past, we had to make some budget reductions to Counseling and Psychological Services, due to that overall budget shortfall,” Blake Phillips, SGA’s Student Services Fee Committee Chair, said. “That wasn’t something that we wanted to do, but something that we ultimately had to do to get back in line.”

Phillips said a Lafene staff member described a moment when a student needed K-State’s mental health services most.

“There was a student who had some sort of event happen and they came in to see CAPS. They were there all day with that student,” Phillips said. “Which is really, really awesome that we were able to have staff who were able to help that student for that amount of time.”

Porter said SGA has a contract with every student services fee entity, and they are each reviewed on a three year cycle. Originally, this was not CAPS’ year for review, but because of the need for change, the student services fee committee approved taking the CAPS budget out of their normal cycle so it could be reviewed this year. 

“CAPS was really severely underfunded,” Porter said. “So underfunded to the point where they might have lost their accreditation for their internship program that they run with the American Psychological Association.” 

Shawn Funk, Lafene’s communications and marketing specialist, said SGA investing in Lafene’s mental health services is going to be beneficial toward students’ well-being.

“We believe that good physical and mental health is essential for academic success,” Funk said.

Phillips said SGA was able to allocate $1,000 to help CAPS staff members maintain their licensure. They were paying $2,500 from their own pocket.

“In the past, CAPS operated under a little bit different model that had some long wait times for students,” Phillips said. “If you wanted to go see someone over at CAPS, it could take a week or longer. That service wasn’t fully meeting students’ needs.”

Funk said CAPS has an app called My SSP, which is a 24/7 chat and phone service that’s free and confidential for all students. 

“If there’s a student that is experiencing an immediate crisis and they can’t get into Lafene on a particular day, they can do telehealth or a chat therapy session through My SSP,” Porter said. 

College students stress around the holidays and when coming back to school, that’s why SGA is putting attention on CAPS, Phillips said. 

“Every person has a different story,” Phillips said. “Not everyone knows the details of everyone’s story from, you know, where they’ve been, what they’ve been through, and so it’s really important to make sure that each student has their needs met, whatever they are.” 

Lafene Health center is working with the student governing association to expand mental health and well-being services at Kansas State University. (Elizabeth Sandstrom _ Collegian Media Group)