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USF Joins Request For More Money For Mental Health Services

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The University of South Florida is joining the other Florida public universities in requesting $14.5 million from the state in the coming budget year.

The money would hire more mental health professionals, including psychologists, counselors, psychiatric nurses and prevention specialists.

Lisa Ferdinand, interim co-director of the Counseling Center on the Tampa campus, said the university joined because they didn’t meet the recommended 1,500 students to one counselor ratio.

“USF has a 1 to 2,100 ratio and so we have also submitted with the request to the board of governors for additional counselors to help get us up to the ideally,  one to 1,000 ratio but at least to the one to 1,500 ratio,” she said.

A recent study by the school showed a 48 percent increase in the number of students seeking counseling. USF has seen a 17 percent increase in students receiving counseling, according to Ferdinand.

“Mental health is much less stigmatized on campuses, so I think students feel more able to come in without the stigma, which was a big barrier that kept them out,” she said.

An increase in the budget would mean USF could hire an additional 25 counselors.

The state Board of Governors will meet on Wednesday and Thursday in Sarasota to review the request and consider it for the 2017-2018 budget year.