The Associated Students of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa are advocating for more mental health counselors and a free in-state tuition scholarship program at four-year universities.
In an executive meeting last week, ASUH said they will push key lawmakers this legislative session to tackle the two shortages.
UH Mānoa provides only six licensed psychologists with multiple counseling programs for students such as couples counseling, career, personal and group counseling. With thousands of students demanding counseling appointments, the waitlist can go up to three months.
Vice President Raiyan Rafid said that mental health funding is a particular point of concern for the university this year.
“There’s no question that we need more mental health counselors,” Rafid said. “We need more because right now you’ll have to wait up to 23 days or even three months just to see a psychologist on campus, which isn’t good if you are in the midst of an emergency.”
Last year, UH submitted a budget request of $1,050,000 for seven licensed psychologists across the four-years. But Gov. David Ige allocated that money mostly toward the two-years before sending it to the legislature.
“As a Senate we help by going to the Legislature and we talk to them about why we need these positions. We have six [psychologists] when we should have ten. We have 17,000 students and six [psychologists].”
Hawai‘i Promise is another topic that ASUH will advocate for. The scholarship program offers free in-state tuition for students at the UH community colleges.
UH proposed $17,700,000 for Hawai‘i Promise and the governor added $1,3000,000 more to the budget proposal.
It is now up to the legislature to decide where the money goes to. The decision will not be made until later on in the legislative session.
ASUH proposed to have a testimony workshop in the beginning weeks of February. This workshop will allow students, faculty, and staff members to have an opportunity to write their approval or disapproval of this bill to be submitted to the state legislature. Within these written testimonies, submitters are able to share their personal experiences with counselors or lack thereof.
“Taking testimonies allows people to say who they are or share the experience with wanting to see a counselor” said Rafid. “We are asking for more mental health counselors that students can utilize.”