GUSA Seeks Donations for Therapy Stipend Program

Elizabeth Ash

Originally published in The Hoya, January 26, 2018

Student mental health advocates are aiming to raise $4,000 for a pilot program to fund off-campus therapy for lower-income students through SaxaFund, a crowdfunding platform for Georgetown University student initiatives, after administrators did not commit funding for a wider pilot program last year.

The proposal, launched by the Georgetown University Student Association’s mental health policy coalition, seeks to subsidize the costoff-campus mental health services for students with financial need to supplement limited services offered by the university.

GUSA originally aimed to solicit $40,000 from the university for a 40-person pilot program, The Hoya reported in November.

GUSA representatives discussed their proposal with University President John J. DeGioia on Nov. 20 and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson on Dec. 1. Though the administrators committed to allocating resources to the goal of making student health care more affordable, they did not commit funding to the initiative.

The activists’ new $4,000 target would fund seven students’ off-campus therapy for one semester in the 2018-2019 academic year. GUSA hopes raising money through SaxaFund will spur other donors — such as alumni and philanthropists — to follow-up with their own contributions.

The mental health policy coalition ultimately wants the university to commit long-term funding to expand the initiative, GUSA President Kamar Mack (COL ’19) said.

“In the long term, we hope to see a sustainable, thorough solution implemented by the University such that all students have a long term arch of affordable mental health care, regardless of their financial background,” Mack wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Grace Perret (COL ’20), director of communications for the GUSA executive, said student fundraising could also inspire short-term contributions from the administration.

“GUSA members working on the program have spoken with Dr. Olson about the possibility of the university matching the contributions made via SaxaFund. This would double the number of students who could participate in the fall 2018 pilot program,” Perret said.

Rachel Pugh, Georgetown’s strategic director for communications, said GUSA and university administrators are “continuing to discuss the issue.”

If implemented, the stipend program would supplement Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Service, which operates on a short-term model. Students can use CAPS for one or two semesters, after which they may be referred to an off-campus provider. Therapy in D.C. averages between $150 and $225 an hour; under Georgetown’s student health insurance, the average deductible for medical services is $250, and the copay is $25.

To be eligible for the therapy stipend, students would need a referral from CAPS, demonstrated financial need and student health insurance.

Kenna Chick (SFS ’20), GUSA’s mental health policy coalition chair, said finding sufficient funding for off-campus therapy is a pressing issue.

“Mental health struggles are often time-sensitive. While we are exploring other long-term ways to address this issue, such as through increasing the coverage under United Healthcare, expanding CAPS, etc., these options would take a couple of years to be in effect,” Chick wrote in an email to The Hoya. “By that time, these students would have, at best, graduated if not have transferred, taken medical leaves of absences, or faced significant mental health crises.”

Chick said the stipend program is necessary for students who currently only have access to limited mental health resources on campus.

“We want to ensure that students who are struggling now have better options and access to the care that they need so that they have the opportunity to reach their fullest potentials,” Chick wrote.

Because CAPS is designed for short-term care for only one to two semesters, Mack said, many students seek longer-term therapy off campus but have trouble affording premiums and copays.

“We recognize that the ultimate solution for Georgetown may employ a number of strategies to mitigate this problem; however, this therapy stipend program will help us support current students as we develop this strategy,” Mack wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Donations made through SaxaFund are deposited into the platform’s Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union account. Once a project meets its goal or passes its fundraising deadline, the money is transferred from SaxaFund’s account directly to the project teams.

SaxaFund is run by GUSA, GUASFCU and Students of Georgetown, Inc. and operates independently from the university.
As of Thursday night, the campaign had collected $47.89, according to SaxaFund’s website.

GUSA and SaxaFund are collaborating on several events and campaigns to incentivize students to contribute to the project, which will likely take place in February and March, Perret said. The groups have also started a letter-writing campaign to widen their reach beyond the university community.

The off-campus therapy stipend would fill a gap in campus services according to Amy Park (SFS ’20), a member of GUSA’s mental health policy coalition.

“I know of many students, my fellow peers, who struggle with many mental health issues, but those issues aren’t addressed because they feel like they don’t have the proper resources.” Park said. “CAPS being a short-term provider, a lot of students don’t get the care that they need once that term expires.”