Updated Dec. 10 at 8 p.m.
As of Dec. 1, Drake University plans to add a 24/7 crisis service to its mental health services and invest funds in Mental Health First Aid training. The university has proposed amounts for a new student wellness fee, including a $140 to $160 fee per semester for full-time undergraduate students.
At the Dec. 1 meeting of the Drake University Student Senate, Chief Student Affairs Officer Jerry Parker said Drake has “tried to hold off on doing this [fee] and just keep it [mental health and wellness costs] within our tuition,” but “the reality is, we can’t sustain it.”
Parker laid out ways Drake would spend the money that the university would receive from the fee.
“It would be towards expanding our counseling center staffing, continuing our contract with Broadlawns to allow for no copay, no fee for service for our students,” Parker told the senators. “Looking at the potential of more outdoor programming through Rec Services because we know the whole concept of nature, outdoor, that plays a really important role.”
The fee may also fund a wellness position that “helps facilitate amongst the different departments” at Drake for programming, Parker said.
New crisis and virtual counseling services, across state lines
While Drake students already have access to crisis lines available to the general public, Parker told the senate that the new service will be specific to Drake students. He said he’s heard that the wait time for a crisis service can be 30 or 45 minutes to an hour.
“All these different [hotlines are] still going to be available, but now we’re saying, here’s a service that is directly paired for our students in those times of need, [guaranteeing] that they are going to have somebody to talk to on the other line,” Parker said.
Parker said a donated $75,000 has made the crisis hotline possible and will provide virtual counseling.
“So this spring, students will have the ability to also have two virtual counseling sessions with a counselor,” Parker said. “The university will provide a pool of additional sessions so that if a student needs more than those two virtual counseling sessions… we can pool those additional sessions out to the students.”
Another benefit, Parker said, is that care will be accessible in Iowa or out of state. A counseling session would be available within 24 hours, and crisis care would be available immediately, he said.
Parker said Drake plans to bring another counselor on staff, for a total of five full-time counselors. He said Drake’s wait times for counseling are better than “if you’re going out into the community.”
“For us, we average at different peaks,” Parker said. “Three to five days. If it’s an emergency situation, we get students in right away. Our goal is to not go beyond a week or two. And we need to do better on that. And so some of the things that we’ve launched, and will be this spring before the wellness fee, is a 24/7 crisis service.”
$20,000 of the donated $75,000 Drake received will go toward Mental Health First Aid, allowing six more faculty and staff members and 200 students to be trained through the program. The national program teaches participants “how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders,” according to its website.
The six faculty and staff will complete a three-day certification process in Mental Health First Aid, while the students will complete an eight-hour session, Parker said.
Parker did not reply to questions from The Times-Delphic by press time.
The Times-Delphic will further cover the wellness fee and Drake’s expansion of mental health services in future coverage.