The Quality Services to Students (QSS) committee approved the 2020-2021 budget proposals for the Athletics departments, the Health and Counselling Centre (HCC), and Student Services on January 22.
The proposed increase by the HCC is particularly significant since it involves a 16.5 per cent increase in current fees for the upcoming academic year. In comparison, the Athletics department saw a 16.3 per cent increase in the span of four years since the 2016-2017 academic year and is proposing an increase of one per cent for next year.
The incidental fee for the HCC is mandatory for all students and will be seeing an increase of $16.74, bringing the annual mandatory HCC fee up to $117.88 from $101.14.
Although the increased fees have been formally approved by the QSS committee, the budget proposals for the HCC, the Athletics department, and Student Services will require the approval of the Campus Affairs Council, Campus Council, and the University Affairs Board of Governing Council before it comes into effect.
In an email correspondence with The Medium, Erin Kraftcheck, the medical director of the HCC, said that the centre’s delivery of health services for student well-being is “cost-efficient” and “less than other U of T campuses while offering generally comparable services.”
“The increased student fee for the 2020-2021 academic year allows the HCC to add two additional counsellors to address the mental health needs of students,” said Kraftcheck.
“We will be able to further expand the number of same-day and follow-up counselling appointments available, offer more group counselling opportunities, and expand our Peer Mentorship program,” continued Kraftcheck.
The HCC is also slated for a new space with renovations coming up this winter and is expected to be ready for use by the summer. This expansion is expected to allow for an increase of services, especially those that the centre wasn’t able to initiate in the past due to space limitations.
“The renovation plans include space for additional physician and counsellor availability, improvements for nursing care, enhanced privacy when interacting in the reception area, and space that’s more conductive to the promotion of health and wellbeing,” said Kraftcheck.
Kraftcheck also detailed the evolution of health services at UTM in recent years, including the success of the Be Well UTM: Activity and Resource Fair, which took place last September.
“[Be Well UTM] is a large-scale mental health fair attended by more than 1000 students, staff, and faculty, and helped to increase awareness of on-campus and external community resources to support mental health and wellness,” stated Kraftcheck.
“This event has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students, and there have been strong requests to continue this event.”
There will also be a new personal counsellor who will be stationed at the Maanjiwe Nendamowinan (MN) building four days per week.
“This counsellor works with English and drama and political science students, as well as other students who reach out to the HCC for counselling support,” continued Kraftcheck. “This has contributed to increasing the number of same-day counselling appointments available.”
In accordance with student requests, the HCC plans on expanding their health promotion programs in order to increase presence around campus and student awareness of programs.
“The HCC expanded the Health Promotion Team to include a staff member dedicated to mental health and wellness,” stated Kraftcheck. “We have added drop-in wellness activities and educational events every week, Monday to Thursday, in our new Wellness Hub in DV2077A, near the Davis Building’s lecture halls.”
Kraftcheck also discussed the new programs and initiatives that the department has been pursuing and mentioned the new Peer Support program that will be introduced in the spring. This program aims to support UTM students struggling with issues ranging from general stress concerns to moderate depression and anxiety.