Parents underwrite prescription for student health

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This story was written by Charles McNair.

“The tens of thousands of students arriving on campus are like butterflies coming out of their cocoons, or turtles coming out of their shells. It’s a grand awakening in some ways, and we want to make sure they go through it in the healthiest way possible.”

Christopher Corbett is director of UGA’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at the University Health Center (UHC). He and the UHC staff believe that no illness–physical or mental–should go untreated because a student feels they can’t afford medical care.

“That’s UGA’s student health care philosophy, and it’s supported at every level–from the university administration to the generous parents targeting donations to student health programs,” says Jennifer Swails, interim executive director and director of finance and support services for UHC.

Swails and Shannon Kuykendall, UHC’s business services manager, oversee the Medical Services Assistance Fund (MSAF) Endowment, a reserve that covers medical copayments for students who cannot afford health care.

“To me, it means a student never has to hesitate to come forward for care,” says Kuykendall. “This is a strong part of UGA’s mission of economic diversity and inclusion. Students should never have any issue taking care of themselves just because of financial concerns.”

In 2021, CAPS and the MSAF endowment will do more good than ever thanks to generous funding from UGA’s Parents Leadership Council (PLC) Grants Program, which is primarily funded by parent donors to the Parents Fund.

The heavily engaged parent organization awarded $24,750 to CAPS in readily available financial support and an even larger gift ($32,063) to the CAPS endowment. The parent-funded grants cover the cost of mental health services for students who otherwise would not be able to afford it. The grant award to the MSAF Endowment ($22,263) covers medical copays for students who cannot afford routine health care. The PLC grants to each of these endowments allow the programs to provide financial support in perpetuity to students having trouble paying for their health care.

The support has proven especially valuable during the pandemic, and it will remain critical as students return to campus for the 2021-22 academic year.

“I envision more uninsured students,” says Swails. “The biggest reason is that families have lost jobs or insurance coverage, and how students will handle that is the big unknown. We’ve already seen a higher behavioral health need. It’s great that students are seeking our services. We’re gratified to see that they have the strength and courage to reach out for their own personal health care.”

The nurturing TLC (tender loving care) of UGA parents once again showcases the deep commitment of UGA’s moms, dads and guardians to creating a safe, inclusive and affirming environment for all students.

“For the University Health Center and for every student,” confirms Corbett, “the PLC’s generosity is the right prescription for a healthy campus and a healthy college experience.”