By MacKenzie Herring
On Nov. 16, Chief Psychologist and Associate Dean for Health and Wellness John Hancock spoke to the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) regarding trends in mental health that directly affect the LC community.
Hancock explained that the Counseling Service at LC had been experiencing both an influx of students and a severe lack of resources. While the budgetary issues at LC directly affect the ability for the Counseling Service to see patients, the nation as a whole has been seeing an increasing number of college students seeking assistance for their mental health.
“I honestly do believe we’ve reached a very difficult time nationally in reaching student mental health needs,” Hancock said. “The numbers coming in are growing for us but also the severity of student’s problems, as the challenges they are facing are also growing.”
As the Counseling Service has been struggling to accommodate the rise in demand, Hancock expressed his concerns with student safety on campus, as treatment may becomes less accessible.
“Most of the students who die by suicide were not receiving help from college services,” Hancock said. “And we offer all students referrals, but (as for treatment), on campus it’s free and it’s easy. Off campus it’s hard and it costs.”
The Counseling Service believes it will either have to cut staff and hours or find a way to increase the budget they work with. Hancock proposed that if they were to increase their budget it would have to be from raising the student health fee or finding a solution through student health insurance.
Hancock stated that support from ASLC is critical in enacting changes in the Counseling Service’s budget.
“I don’t think any (change in) fees will happen if student government doesn’t agree with it,” Hancock said.
Unrelated to the presentation given by Hancock, ASLC also discussed the use of the organization’s 4300 account. As ASLC distributes money from the student fee to clubs and organizations, the 4300 account exists to hold any money not used by the end of the academic year. The account has been steadily added to and now is at a level where ASLC considers it a valuable asset.
Although the cabinet members disagree as to what the organization should do with the money, they agreed about not spending the entirety of the fund. ASLC President Marissa Valdez ’18 said that with such variability in deposits, it is dangerous to use the whole fund in the cast of a budget shortfall.
“We can’t just spend this money,” Valdez said. “There are years in which we get more money than we anticipated, other years it was lower than that number and that’s where the fluctuation comes from.”
Student Organizations Coordinator Alden Chatfield ’19 said that the fund should be reserved specifically for student clubs and organizations.
“I want to advocate that we use this money in one way or another for club funding,” Chatfield said. “The student fee money is meant for club funds, that is what it’s meant for, that is definitionally what it is.”
ASLC Auditor Brad Davis said that allocating the fund completely to other organizations could result in a misuse of funds.
“I think it is important that ASLC has money it can choose what to do with and that there’s a discretionary fund available,” Davis said. “In general, I think that the more money we make available to clubs equals exactly how much more money clubs are going to be spending, and not necessarily in an intelligent non-wasteful manner.”
ASLC plans to discuss the use of the 4300 fund in a separate meeting where members of the Cabinet and Senate could debate without time limitations. As the fund is not guaranteed to be at a certain amount each year, ASLC Vice President Zack Johnson ’19 urged that the current senate keep the organization’s preservation and future in mind.
“ASLC isn’t a one year thing, it’s not the next year’s thing, it’s an ongoing thing,” Johnson said. “My hope is that you put away a pretty big chunk of this money in favor of thinking about future senates as opposed to this one.”