By Jesse Taylor
If students are having mental, legal or financial issues, the Student Assistance Program is here to help. SAP launched Nov. 14, 2022. It is a service that students have access to which allows them to connect with counselors and seek aid in the areas of mental health, financial and legal concerns. The program is run by Business Health Services, a company based out of Maryland that provides for many different colleges. As an example, if a student is suffering from depression or anxiety, has a landlord who isn’t keeping up with repairs, or recently moved off campus and is struggling with keeping to a budget — SAP could help.
SAP was launched using money provided to SUNY Plattsburgh by the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Since the program launched, 1.6% of SUNY Plattsburgh students have taken advantage of the program. Christy Minck, the assistant director of counseling services, said this number is “an amazing start.” BHS set a goal of 2% student utilization by the end of the year. If the goal is not reached, then SAP will not be able to continue being a counseling option for students.
However, Stephen Matthews, the dean of students, wanted to clarify that the school still does not know exactly what “1.6%” means. Has the program been seeing 1.6% of students, or have 1.6% of students at some point in time contacted SAP? Matthews said that these are the kinds of questions that the school will be asking when considering the future of the program.
Cori Jackson, interim vice president of student enrollment and success, said SUNY Plattsburgh is currently “tracking the numbers” to determine whether it is worth having this “additional service.” It may also point that they are “not doing a good job advertising.”
The HEERF money is one lump sum. Once the school runs out of the money, it does not get any more — another problem the college is working to solve.
Jackson also said, “We have secured funding for a second year of the contract.” She said that things like this take some time to get off the ground — a decision to continue the program will not have to be made until 2024.
If a student seeks to take advantage of the program they can call 800-327-2251, fill out an online form or scan the QR code on the flyers that are found hung on the walls of many SUNY Plattsburgh buildings. The student will then speak to what BHS calls a “student care coordinator” who will connect them to the kinds of resources that they need. They essentially become a student’s personal caseworker, checking up on their progress through what Minck calls “continuity of care.” The program is free to all SUNY Plattsburgh students.
Minck said the program offers students up to eight sessions before connecting them with long-term counselors either in the student’s home town or on-campus.
Minck said, “If you still feel like you need ongoing counseling, then what they would do is discharge planning and refer you to long term therapy.”
In the case when a student does not wish to speak to someone directly for counseling, there are a multitude of self-help resources available on the BHS website, including connections to outside resources.
BHS does not hire counselors who continually work with students with their needs. Instead, they act as a middle person helping students find the assistance they need through the company’s network of counselors.