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VSU introduces expanded health program

Just recently VSU and the University System of Georgia announced the expansion of the mental health services called Honesty, Openness, Perspective, and Empathy (HOPE) Connect @VSU. The new program provides mental health support regardless of time or location.

According to Dr. Vincent Miller, vice president of Student Affairs, the program’s name was created by the SGA taskforce to brand the expanded services and resources on campus.

“HOPE Connect @ VSU is an expanded mental health program to support to all VSU students in conjunction with the VSU Counseling Center”, said Dr. Tricia Hale, deputy chief officer of Student and director of counseling.

Dr. Hale said that the expanded program has several resources including, Personal Student Navigators, referrals to treatment options for therapy with community providers and access to  Internet-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (iCBT).

There is also Virtual Psychiatric Clinics that offer assessment and medication management.

Personal Student Navigators assist with referral coordination and support. Navigators assist students working through the self-help coping module in which there are 8 sessions of skills acquisition.

“The Wellness Hub” includes an app and an online wellness magazine with educational content, self-help tools, and resource links.

“These services are expanded services on top of what the VSU Counseling Center currently offers,” Dr. Hale said. “It allows students to access therapy with community providers if they so choose, as well as if they live outside of the state of Georgia, are international students or are students who study abroad.”

In the past two years, there has been an increasing need for support in mental health services at colleges and universities across the .

“The demand for services has steadily increased over time,” Dr. Hale said.

The funding for this program was granted from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funding which was presented by Gov. Brian Kemp in August 2020.

“It was set aside by the federal CARES Act to support mental health and student services through the USG,” Robbyn DeSpain, director of Strategic Communications said.

According to the VSU website, these services are in partnership with Christie Campus Health, a 24/7 hotline and well-being support program.

“USG has also dedicated resources for a partnership with The Jed Foundation (JED) to help campuses create a long-term strategic plan while implementing immediate actions and programs on to support student mental health on campus,” according to the website.

JED provides an approach in promoting emotional well-being and preventing suicide as well as sustenance abuse.

Compared to online students, on-campus students are more likely to know about the programs VSU has to offer and how to access them.

“These resources are incredibly important to our students, and we want to make sure they know what’s available,” DeSpain said. “We are working on a comprehensive marketing plan on campus that involves things like yard signs, flyers and digital signage. For our online students, we will have a strong website and social media presence and we’re marketing to them through MyVSU and regular email communication.”

“We are in the final stages of launching the HOPE Connect web page and marketing materials launch this month,” Dr. Miller said.

Students can access the 24/7 support line at 833-910-3365.

Written by Jasmin Small, Staff Writer. Photo courtesy of VSU.

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